I guess I can understand why some people don’t believe in God. After all, you can’t see Him. And there is a lot of evil and suffering in the world that surely wouldn’t exist if an all-good and all-powerful Being were around.
On the other hand, isn’t the world itself evidence of an intelligent Being that made it? Do you have to see the manufacturer of any car you drive to realize that the manufacturer exists? And doesn’t the fact that we recognize evil for what it is suggest that there is an absolute standard of right and wrong that flows from an absolutely just Lawgiver?
The atheists that I have met haven’t been able to respond very well these kind of questions. In fact, those atheists have a lot of trouble in general trying to prove the non-existence of God.
If you meet an atheist sometime soon, you may want to get them to see how foolish it is for them to claim that they know God doesn’t exist (if they make that claim). If you get the opportunity, ask that atheist how much knowledge of the universe they think they possess. Draw a circle on a piece of paper. Tell him or her that the circle represents all the knowledge in the universe. Ask them to draw another circle inside the first circle. The second circle will represent all the knowledge of the universe that they think they have. Once they draw the circle, ask, “Do you think it is possible that the knowledge that God exists somewhere out here?” (You point to the area inside the big circle but outside the second circle.) The biggest claim the atheist can make is that he does not know that God exists. He could be an agnostic, but not an atheist.
Once you have an atheist admit that there might be a God, then challenge him to think about the risk he is taking. For if I am wrong as a Christian and there is no God, then I’ve not really lost much of anything. But if he is wrong as an atheist, and I am right as a Christian, then he will lose his soul in hell. Since he could be wrong, he ought to check to make sure that the evidence strongly suggests that there is no God (at least not a ‘Christian God’) rather than the other way around.
When you get the atheist to start thinking about the risk he is taking, then you can offer some proof for the existence of God.
The Cosmological Argument
Say to the atheist, “Do you know the four possible explanations for the existence of the universe?” Then explain these options: Either the universe created itself (It came from nothing), it has always existed as it is, it gradually came about starting from an eternal “blob” of energy/matter, or it came from a personal Independent Being.
Then explain what is wrong with the first three options. The universe could not have created itself (the first option) because that would involve a contradiction. The universe would have to exist and not exist at the same time and in the same respect in order to create its own existence!
The universe could not have always existed as it is (second option) because of the 1st and 2nd Laws of Thermodynamics. The first Law says that matter/energy can be neither created nor destroyed– no new energy is being pumped into the universe. The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics says that the net usable energy in the universe is depleting. If this is true, then eventually we will run out of usable energy. We would have already disintegrated into unusable energy if the universe were eternal.
Why is it unreasonable to say that the world came from impersonal matter or energy (the third option)? Well, if you could get around the laws of thermodynamics (which you can’t, even with this option), then you would still have a very serious problem. If the universe came from an impersonal “speck” or “blob” then the only factors that exist are the impersonal, plus time, plus chance. Francis Schaeffer said:
“Beginning with the impersonal, everything, including man, must be explained in terms of the impersonal plus time plus chance. Do not let anyone divert your mind at this point. There are no other factors in the formula, because there are no other factors that exist. . . No one has ever demonstrated how time plus chance, beginning with an impersonal, can produce the needed complexity of the universe, let alone the personality of man.”¹
Therefore, the world must have been created by a personal, eternal Being. The only reasonable explanation for the world is a self-existent Creator. This is the Cosmological Argument for Deity.
The Teleological Argument
If your atheist friend is willing to keep listening, share with him the teleological argument, which actually could be classified as an aspect of the cosmological argument. The word ‘teleological’ comes from ‘telos’, which means “end, or goal.” It has to do with purpose, or design. The teleological argument says that all the intricate design in the universe argues for a purposeful first cause.
For example, just think about the complexity of the eye. The eye is simply amazing in its ability, especially when you consider all the parts that have to work together for the eye to function properly.
Look at the cell, the parts of which all need to be functioning simultaneously for the cell to survive. If evolution occurred, these cell parts must have appeared spontaneously, all at the same time. But that sounds a lot like creation. It would have been impossible for a structure with this much design, or purpose to have come into being by chance.
Look at the structure of a single strand of DNA. It is more complex than a modern computer. All the information of the human body is stored in a strand of human DNA that takes up less space than the period at the end of a written sentence. DNA’s order and complexity show that it must have been designed by a great Intelligence.
The Anthropic Principle
Our third argument for the existence of God is the anthropic principle. This argument says that the earth has just the right conditions for human life. Let me give you some examples that you can share with your atheistic friend.
DISTANCE FROM THE SUN
If we were any closer to the sun, we would burn up. If we were any farther away, we would freeze to death. The atmosphere is just right for life here. People take for granted all the things that we experience that are necessary for life to exist on this planet. The only adequate explanation for the atmosphere having just the right conditions is that the earth and its atmosphere were made for us by an intelligent Being.
GRAVITY AND ELECTROMAGNETISM
All the unrelated constants in physics are precisely the values necessary for a world to produce life. These next two points are examples of this. Patrick Glynn writes in God: The Evidence: “Gravity is roughly 1039 times weaker than electromagnetism. If gravity had been 1033times weaker than electromagnetism, stars would be a billion times less massive and would burn a million times faster.’”
PROTONS AND NEUTRONS
Glynn then says, “If the difference in mass between a proton and a neutron were not exactly as it is—roughly twice the mass of an electron–then all neutrons would have become protons or vice versa. Say good-bye to chemistry as we know it—and to life.”
THE NATURE OF WATER
The nature of water is very mysterious. Unlike most other molecules, water expands as it gets colder. That is why ice floats. If ice didn’t float, ice would settle at the bottom of the lakes in colder regions. Lakes would freeze from the bottom up, and most of their life would be destroyed.
The preceding examples show how the earth has just the right conditions for life. This is evidence for a Grand Designer. Only an eternal, intelligent Being with great power could be an adequate explanation.
THE YOUNG EARTH
As you know, evolutionism tries to explain the existence of the universe apart from God. In order to make the case for evolution, evolutionists need the earth to be very old. (Of course, even if the earth were millions of years old, evolution would still be impossible.) But there are many reasons to believe that the earth is young. Actually, 90% of the dating methods used to determine the age of the earth argue for a young earth. Some examples of findings using this method include the fact that:
There is no evidence that the sun’s light is now brighter than it was in the past, as there would be if the earth is millions of years old. The sun is powered by nuclear reactions. Theoretically, the sun’s core shrinks over time because of this, causing the nuclear reactions to occur more often. This means that over time the sun should burn brighter and brighter. However there is no evidence that the sun’s light was fainter in the past. If the earth is young, there is no discrepancy. If the earth were old, there would be evidence that the sun’s light used to be fainter, but there is not. Evolutionists believe that life appeared on the earth about 3.8 million years ago. The sun would have been 25% fainter then, causing the earth to have an average temperature below freezing.
Some other findings include the fact that:
The moon is slowly receding from earth at about 1-1/2 inches per year,
And the rate would have been greater in the past. But even if the moon had started receding from being in contact with the earth, it would have taken only 1.37 billion years to reach its present distance. This gives a maximum possible age of the moon——not the actual age. This is far too young for evolution (and much younger than the radiometric ‘‘dates’’ assigned to moon rocks).
Salt is pouring into the sea much faster than it is escaping. The sea is not nearly salty enough for this to have been happening for billions of years.
Even granting generous assumptions to evolutionists, the seas could not be more than 62 million years old——far younger than the billions of years believed by evolutionists. Again, this indicates a maximum age, not the actual age.
Arguments for a very old earth are based on unproven assumptions. For example,
it assumes that the rocks being analyzed have not been altered over time by migration of atoms in or out of the rocks, which requires detailed information from both the geological and chemical sciences. This is a huge assumption. Potassium and uranium, both common parent elements, are easily dissolved in water, so could be leached out of rocks. Argon, produced by decay from potassium, is a gas, so moves quite readily.
The Moral Argument
Another argument that we can share with atheists is the moral argument for the existence of God. The fact that we all have a sense of right and wrong argues that there is a Supreme Lawgiver from which that morality comes. C.S. Lewis is famous for his presentation of this argument in his Mere Christianity. Lewis talked about a sense of “oughtness” that people from every culture have. There is some disagreement among different cultures concerning what is right and what is wrong (and a lot of similarities), but all persons experience times when they know that they “ought” to do something, or “ought not” do something else. Where did this sense of oughtness come from, if not from God?
Responding to the Main Objection to God’s Existence
In a nutshell, the number one objection to the existence of God is:
“If there is a good and omnipotent God, then why is there evil and suffering in the world? The existence of evil must prove there is not a good, omnipotent God.”
That is the #1 objection to the existence of God. Do you see why people would think this? People expect a good, all-powerful God to deal immediately with sin and suffering. They say that if this God were real, then he would keep the world free of pain. If He were good, He would not want there to be sin or suffering. If He were all-powerful, then He could do something about it. So why then is there evil in the world?
How do we respond to this question? What is so interesting about this problem of evil is that the very problem implies that there is a God. For we would not know that evil exists without an absolute standard of right and wrong by which we could distinguish good from bad. This absolute standard of right and wrong must come from an Absolute Lawgiver, who is God. This goes back to what we were saying about the moral argument for the existence of God.
But why is there evil in the world? There is evil in the world because the humans God made abused their freedom to choose between good and evil. Suffering is the consequence of moral evil. Free creatures chose evil rather than good. As a result, the whole world was cursed. Even innocent people suffer because of this curse on the whole world.
But why did God make free creatures? God made free creatures because He wanted them to love Him. Love is impossible without freedom of choice. God couldn’t make man and woman love Him. Forced love is a contradiction.
Someone may say, “I understand now why there is suffering in the world. It is the consequence of moral evil. But why does there have to be as much suffering in the world as there is?” No doubt there would be more suffering in the world if it wasn’t for God’s mercy. But because the world needs to be taught how serious sin is, God doesn’t eliminate all suffering. The great amount of suffering in the world shows how serious sin is. It is so serious that serious consequences have come to the world as a result of sin.
But some may say, “Why doesn’t God do something about all the evil and suffering in the world?” The answer is that God has already done something about it. God the Son entered our pain with us, suffering with us, so that we could be freed from sin, and someday forever escape our suffering.
When we personally experience pain here and now, we are not without consolation. If we are true Christians, we can have the assurance that “all things work together for good to them that love God” – that’s what the Bible says (Romans 8:28). Though we may not understand it, God has a purpose for what He allows in our lives. God takes the pain we experience and causes it to work for our best interest.
God many times uses suffering to draw people into a relationship with Himself. C.S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasure, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain. It is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
All these arguments demonstrate that the existence of God is more than just a possibility. The overwhelming evidence is in favor of belief in God. Your atheist friend hopefully will see this and begin to change his views.
- Francis Schaeffer, from He is There and He is Not Silent (in the chapter on the Metaphysical Necessity).