“How do I Know?” Psalm 145 -Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
In the comic strip BC, a caveman is having a crisis of faith. “God, just show me You exist, and I’ll believe!” he cries. Suddenly there’s an earthquake, a volcano erupts, lightning strikes, and a rainbow appears…and the caveman cries out, “Just give me a sign, God!” Philosopher Bertrand Russell stated that if he did meet up with God, he would challenge God by arguing, “You did not give me enough evidence.” The problem is the rejection of evidence. During the Cold War, a Soviet Cosmonaut argued that he didn’t see God when he ventured into outer space. Upon hearing this, someone remarked, “If he had stepped out of his space-suit he would have seen God!”
For some people, nothing, no proof will convince them of God’s existence; they’re determined to reject a theistic worldview. And while it’s not our responsibility to convince them, we need to have a reason for the hope within us. We do not have some deluded, blind faith, but a rational one. We can defend our faith. And while we can’t understand everything about God, we don’t have to commit intellectual suicide to believe. We’re not leaping into the dark but embracing the Light. We’re convinced Christianity is true.
So how do we respond when someone tells us they don’t believe in God? I want to offer some talking points that may help us better defend our faith…
#1, The order and complexity of the world point toward a Creator; the design indicates a Designer. His fingerprints are everywhere. Just as a watch leads us to conclude there was a watch-maker, and a book implies an author, when we observe the wonders of human existence we’re led to conclude that life is no random accident. God reveals Himself in nature. When I worked at a Christian camp in North Carolina, we used to hike to a waterfall and sing “How Great Thou Art”. As we enjoy the Autumn foliage of New England, we’re seeing God’s signature on Creation. The majesty and wonder of the great outdoors points to the One who made the heavens and the earth. The recent debate over Intelligent Design stresses that the complexity of human life points to an intentional cause; if the world began with a “Big Bang”, there was a “Big Banger”. Psalm 19 proclaims, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork.” It takes too much faith to say that this world “just happened” by chance. Many scientists state the origin of life occurring by accident is mathematically impossible. In a 1991 article in Scientific American, Sir Francis Crick writes, “The origin of life appears to be miraculous, so many are the conditions which would have had to be satisfied to get it going.”
#2, We possess an inner awareness of God. Paul points out in Romans 1 that an awareness of God is inherent in people; it’s part of our wiring, our programming: “What may be known about God is plain to the world, because God has made it plane to them. 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” (19-20). Scientists have written about the “faith-gene”, how we appear to be genetically “hardwired” for belief. There’s a vacuum within us that only God can fill. Some resist this awareness, while others feel led to explore the implications that there appears to be a Higher Power. Implanted within us is a sense of God, that we are not alone in the universe, but that life has meaning because God made us for a purpose, a “Master Plan”. No matter where we travel, every culture has a concept of God which gives life order and meaning. Although Paul says that people choose to suppress the truth about God, no one has a valid excuse for not believing in God.
#3, Along with an inner sense of God, we also have an awareness of morality, an inner grasp of right and wrong. We possess a conscience. Mark Twain stated that, “Man is the only animal who blushes…and needs to.” The point is that, while we may not always agree over moral issues, we are aware of an absolute standard, and we strive to live morally straight. This supposes One who has set in place the concept of morality, of fairness, values imparted by a holy God. It has been pointed out that if there is no God, then life is meaningless, our existence is an accident that ends at death, and it doesn’t matter how anyone lives; we can make our own arbitrary rules. A Harvard professor writes, “If we have no moral point of reference, what you think is no more right or wrong than what I think” (Nicholi). An atheist stated that, while he condemns the Holocaust, he has no rational basis to do so (Rorty). Such thinking leads to lawlessness and ultimately, despair. A renowned atheist admitted that people function better of they act “as though God exists” (Huxley). Although cultures differ on points of morality, for the most part all people have a fairly uniform sense of right and wrong; we can “recognize the same Law running through them all” (Lewis). This is evidence of the original design and of God’s moral absolutes, without which there is little basis for ethics.
#4, Another proof is godlike qualities within us. Shakespeare put it best: “What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculties! In form and moving, how express and admirable! In action how like an angel! In apprehension, how like a god! The beauty of the world!” Our Creator has made us in His image, giving us dignity and worth. We see the evidence of God, not only in our biology, but in our ability to think abstractly. The human mind, able to construct marvels, points to a Higher Power. Our ability to invent automobiles, to compose symphonies, to create art masterpieces, to write literature, to form governments all point to a higher intelligence that has enabled us to develop into a cultured civilization. Our creativity and achievements, our capacity to love are a reflection of God’s nature. In spite of the evidence, people suppress their knowledge of God.
#5, The hardest proof for some to accept is God’s self-revelation, found in the Bible. In Scripture God reveals His nature, His will, and His actions. He is not silent. The Bible teaches us that God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchanging--in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, and truth. We should ask people to consider the teachings of the Bible, to read it with an open mind, then trust that God’s word will speak to them.
#6, Ultimately it is faith which finally convinces us of the reality of God. It is faith that leads us to commit our lives to the One who created and sustains us, the One who reigns above, the One who loves us with a sacrificial love. We believe that we are here because God desires to love us and be loved by us. We are capable of loving God. Christian Theism answers the question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” Our response to God is to cry, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts!”
Misperceptions about God can cause people to reject God as they understand Him. People think of God as a harsh Judge who refuses to forgive, or an Errand Boy who’s supposed to grant all our wishes. They prayed for a sick relative who did not recover. Such ideas of God aren’t found in the Bible. Some reject God as a way of rejecting their parents. Two friends were talking about religion, and one admitted he didn’t believe in God. The other replied, “Tell me about the ‘God’ you don’t believe in, because the chances are I don’t believe in that God either.”
It’s common to harbor doubt, to question God…but we all know people who outright deny the existence of God. Their unbelief may be due to so-called religious people who mistreated them. Some skeptics reject the notion of God because they’d rather not be accountable to Him. They’d prefer to be free to live however they wish, to evade responsibility. They don’t want some Higher Power interfering with their lives. We will all stand before God some day, and answer for our choices. It’s been said that, “A true atheist is one who is willing to face the full consequences of what it means to say there is no God” (Buechner). C.S. Lewis reflected that human history unfolds “the long, terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”
Our belief in God yields everlasting results. In John’s Gospel we’re told, “This is the way to eternal life--to know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent to earth” (17:3). We’re not on our own in a meaningless world; we’re not alone in the universe. We are restless till we find our rest in God (Augustine). He made us to know Him, and we can.