Why do I believe in God? That’s a good question and it’s been raised again and again throughout my life. It wasn’t until college that I finally started thinking through a reasoned answer to why I believe. 1 Peter 3:15 tells me that I should always be ready to give a defense for the reason for the hope that I have, so this essay will be just that. Before we get going I think it’s important to clarify that The Holy Spirit has caused me to believe the Truth of the Bible, He’s the one that caused me to believe in Jesus as my Lord and savior. According to the Bible, God the Father decided to save me, Christ the Son came and earned my salvation on the Cross, and The Holy Spirit worked in my heart to cause me to believe. While I believe that the Holy Spirit is the cause of my belief, I still have many reasons for why I believe and it would be a category error to conflate the cause of my belief and the reasons for why I hold my belief.
In looking at the reasons for my belief in God I think it’ll be helpful to systematize them in three different categories: The Foundational Reasons, The Observational Reasons, and The Experiential Reasons. The foundational reasons will be more abstract and talk about the foundations for belief itself, the observational reasons will have to do more with what we observe in reality and the experiential will be more personal reasons for my belief. My hope is that these reasons will be cogent, reasoned, and persuasive. Yeah, I want you to believe in God as well, specifically the God of the Bible. As I expound on some of my reasons I’ll explain why I believe in the Trinitarian God of the Bible vs. other gods. I’ll be tossing in a lot of my favorite quotes from Christian Philosophers, and I mean a lot! You may think, “what the heck, Park? I thought this was supposed to be YOUR reasons for why you believe.” Well, they are my reasons and these are some people who’ve helped bolster my faith by pointing me back to God so I’ve decided to share them with you. I know this one is particularly long so feel free to skip around to the topics that interest you most, but taken together, they are the reasons why I believe in God.
“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” -C.S. Lewis
I think a particularly compelling argument for the existence of God is that without Him you can’t prove anything. What the heck does that mean? Well when you ask for proof you’re asking for a reasonable truth that corresponds to reality and you don’t want me to knowingly deceive you, right? I would argue that rational, scientific proof presupposes the existence of God already. Any worldview that doesn’t presuppose God will have to use motifs that are stolen from a Christian worldview in order to make sense of their own. A quote from Dr. Greg Bahnsen will help set the stage for my Foundational Reasons section,
“differing worldviews can be compared to each other in terms of the important philosophical question about the “preconditions of intelligibility” for such important assumptions as the universality of logical laws, the uniformity of nature, and the reality of moral absolutes. We can examine a worldview and ask whether its portrayal of nature, man, knowledge, etc., provide an outlook in terms of which logic, science and ethics can make sense. It does not comport with the practices of natural science to believe that all events are random and unpredictable, for instance. It does not comport with the demand for honesty in scientific research, if no moral principle expresses anything but a personal preference or feeling. Moreover, if there are internal contradictions in a person’s worldview, it does not provide the preconditions for making sense out of man’s experience. For instance, if one’s political dogmas respect the dignity of men to make their own choices, while ones’ psychological theories reject the free will of men, then there is an internal defect in that person’s worldview. It is the Christian’s contention that all non-Christian worldview are beset with internal contradictions, as well as with beliefs which do not render logic, science, or ethics intelligible.” (Always Ready, Bahnsen, 121).
With this in mind, let’s look at some of the Foundational Reasons for my belief in God.
How does Reason depend on God? Well, the Laws of Logic are immaterial, you can’t go to Costco and buy a crate of Logic. Logic is necessary, we can’t live without logic, it’s how we think, it’s how we reason, it’s why we look both ways before we cross the street. It’s how we know we can’t exist in the same space as a car driving 30mph. And Logic is universal, it’s laws apply throughout the universe. A meteor millions of miles away either exists or it doesn’t exist, it doesn’t both exist and not exist in the same way at the same time, that’s nonsensical. There are three major laws of thought or laws of logic, The Law of Noncontradiction ( P is not non P, P can’t both be and not be at the same time and in the same respect), The Law of Identity (P is P, A thing is what it is) and The Law of The Excluded Middle (Either P or non P, either or, between being and nonbeing there is no middle state.).
While different logical theories can be debated amongst logicians, all of the prominent theories say that logic is necessary, immaterial and universal. It’s my contention that logic is dependent on God, who is necessary, universal, and immaterial. Logic isn’t beyond God or above God, it’s not a truth outside of God that He has to submit to. Rather, logic is an aspect of God’s thought, God is logical and He’s made this universe in a logical manner. As Gordon Clark puts it, “Logic is to be considered as the activity of God’s willing”.
Vern Poythress explains that “the English word logic comes from Greek Logike, which is closely related to the Greek word logos. Logos in Greek has a range of meaning, including reason, law, speaking, declaration. The meaning “reason” explains why the study of reasoning came to be called logic.” (Logic, Poythress, 70.) With this understanding, is it any wonder why the Apostle John starts off his gospel account saying that in the beginning was the Logos and the Logos was with God and the Logos was God? God is the standard of logical thought.
If the God of the Bible exists and If we are made in God’s image like the Bible says, then we are justified in using our reasoning abilities to study ourselves and the universe we inhabit. There will be a correspondence between our minds and the universe because the universe was made by a logical God and we are made in that God’s image with the reasoning capacities He’s blessed us with. John Frame says, “If logic cannot exist without god, then to deny that God exists while affirming the law of noncontradiction is like denying the existence of the sun while affirming the existence of its rays. Of course, an unbeliever might deny this view that logic cannot exist without God, but since that is the very point in dispute, it would beg that question.” (Apologetics, Frame, 71).
God has made us to represent Himself here on earth, to think like Him, in a reasonable, logical manner. I’ve heard other people’s account of the laws of logic and I really don’t find them compelling. I think dutch Philosopher and Theologian Cornelius Van Til sums it up well, “Christianity alone is reasonable for men to hold. It is wholly irrational to hold any other position than that of Christianity. Christianity alone does not slay reason on the alter of ‘chance’… the absolutely certain proof of the truth of Christianity is that unless its truth is presupposed there is no proof of anything. Christianity is proved as being the very foundation of the idea of proof itself” (The Defense of the Faith, Van Til, 117-118). My belief in the Bible warrants my use of Logic, I don’t believe any other worldview can account for the immaterial, universal, and necessary nature of the laws of logic and I agree with Francis Schaeffer that, “Christianity is the greatest intellectual system the mind has ever touched”.
Knowledge and Standards of Truth
As for knowledge, I’ve often been accused of having “blind faith”. But blind faith is not the Christian way. The Christian believes that all truth is God’s truth. If God is who He says He is in the Bible, then all facts are His facts and with proper interpretation they will point back to Him. I say with St. Augustine and Anselm of Canterbury that “I believe in order that I may understand”, and I have “Faith seeking understanding”. Rather than blind adherence, I seek reasoned faith… I mean I’m even taking the time to explain my reasons in this post.
I do believe that all knowledge requires faith, and faith in an authority. Think about it, in order to know anything you first had to believe something. My faith starts with the God who has revealed Himself in the Bible, that’s my basic heart commitment. The Bible is my ultimate criterion of truth, I believe we’ve been made in God’s image and are dependent on His revelation to figure out the world and how we ought to treat one another, but humanity turned from His revelation and we have all sorts of problems because of it.
As I talk to students on campus many accuse me of circular reasoning. I say the Bible is my ultimate standard of truth then I interpret the world through the lens of the Bible and the world makes perfect sense, they don’t like that. But when I ask them what their ultimate standard of truth is they have a real hard time coming up with one. Usually people will say their reason or their senses but when I ask them why they picked reason as their ultimate criterion they have to use circular logic to justify it, same with those who pick sense perception. What I’ve come to realize is that “all argumentation about ultimate issues eventually comes to rest at the level of the disputant’s presuppositions.” (Dr. Greg Bahnsen, Always Ready, 71).
We all have these ultimate presuppositions that make up our worldviews, but upon examination not all presuppositions are equal and Christianity’s presupposition alone makes sense of reason, knowledge and truth. Again, John Frame helps us out, “It sounds circular to say that our faith governs our reasoning and also that it is in turn based on rationality. But it is important to remember that the rationality of which we speak, the rationality that serves as the rational basis for faith, is God’s own rationality. The sequence is as follows: God’s rationality => human faith => human reasoning. The arrows may be read “is the rational basis for.” So in this sense, the sequence is linear, not circular. But If faith is in accord with God’s own thought, then it goes without saying that it will also be in accord with the best human reasoning, which images God’s. God gave us our rational equipment not to deceive us, but so that we might gain knowledge.” (Apologetics, Frame, 10).
Every conceptual system needs a starting point, most people’s systems start with themselves and their own autonomous reason. Christianity says we don’t know everything but we know someone who does and we start with Him, as Proverbs 1:7 and 9:10 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge, and knowledge of the holy one is understanding.”
Science and metaphysics are a couple more reasons for my belief in God. The Bible says that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, all things were made through Him and with out him was not any thing made that was made, He is before all things and in Him all things hold together. When I hear people talk about the big bang and the rapid expansion of the universe from a singularity my faith is bolstered not hindered. The Bible describes God as a star breather, a Creator who is rational, intelligent and creative, who makes things with wisdom, knowledge and understanding, and who “spoke and it was”. When I read the Bible I don’t read it as a scientific text book per se, but I do see the proper foundations for rational belief in general and the necessary foundations for science specifically. The Bible says that God made the universe and made us in His image, He’s gifted us with reason to be able to study His intelligible universe, thus science is possible. It even says that “it is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.” Which explains why we have a deep, innate passion to discover more and more. God has hidden things for us to discover, like a cosmic easter egg hunt, ultimately so we will know Him more and enjoy the process.
Maybe that reason isn’t compelling to you but I think the problem of induction will be. The problem of induction in science is the problem of uniformity in nature and knowing the future. Science depends on the future being like the past and all of the universe being uniform in nature such that we can study it and make generalizations about it. But the problem is that by definition we don’t know the future. So how can we be justified in setting up experiments for the future if we don’t know that the law of gravity will hold tomorrow? Or even more practically, how are we justified in sitting down on the couch in ten minutes if we aren’t sure that the laws of physics will apply in ten minutes?
I think the Christian worldview can make sense of the problem of induction. God says He is holding all things together, He says that the times and seasons will continue until His Son returns. By trusting in God’s control of the universe we can have rational justification for doing science. We are justified in looking for truth in scientific experiments and in taking those next ten steps because we know that God is holding all things together and the future will be like the past as long as the trustworthy God of the Bible continues to apply the laws of physics. Here’s what it looks like If we were to just say that the future will be like the past because it always has been,
“How do you know the future will be like the past, Steve?”
“Well, Bill, the future will be like the past because the past is like the past.”
“Well, Steve, I’ve never died in the past, does that mean that I’ll never die in the future?”
“Shut up, Bill.”
Some people would like to accuse me of the “God of the gaps” fallacy which is just sticking God in all the holes in our scientific knowledge. I’m not jamming God into the gaps, I’m saying God must necessarily be the foundation for human knowledge and without Him our scientific efforts aren’t even warranted in the first place. The rational justification of science depends on the God of the Bible and that’s why most of our major universities started as Christian seminaries. Modern science was birthed out of the Judeo-Christian worldview, a worldview that had the foundations to get science off the ground, a worldview that said this universe is orderly and intelligible and we can study it to find out more about ourselves and our Creator. “And if chance is king, where do laws come from? They do not exist in the objective world, because that world is the result of chance, not the product of a designer who gives it a structure of regularity” (Cornelius Van Til an Analysis of His Thought, John Frame, 77). I find this line of thinking compelling.
As for miracles, I believe that the God who made the universe could definitely do what ever He wanted to do with it. It all comes back to what we believe about God. If you don’t believe in Him then of course you wont believe in miracles. If you do believe in Him, then anything He wants to do with His creation He can do, He’s God. C.S. Lewis says, “the question whether miracles occur can never be answered simply by experience. Every event which might claim to be a miracle is, in the last resort, something presented to our senses, something seen, heard, touched, smelled or tasted. And our senses are not infallible. If anything extraordinary seems to have happened, we can always say that we have been the victims of an illusion. If we hold a philosophy which excludes the supernatural, this is what we always shall say. What we learn from experience depends on the kind of philosophy we bring to experience. It is therefore useless to appeal to experience before we have settled, as well as we can, the philosophical question.” (Miracles, Lewis, 2). I heartily agree.
Again, it all comes back to our worldview. A naturalist will dismiss miracles out of hand. As a supernaturalist, I believe in miracles, but how do I distinguish miracle from mirage? The Bible. The Bible is my standard for truth and knowledge. If someone comes to me and claims they saw this or that wacko miracle, I wont dismiss it out of hand like a naturalist, but I will test it by my ultimate criterion of truth. I don’t believe in brute facts or uninterpreted facts. Facts need interpretation. The resurrection of Christ was so huge because of the propositions that accompany it, not just the brute fact that a man resurrected. So miracles need interpretation, and I seek God’s interpretation of miracles and facts.
Morality and Meta-Ethics
We can’t help but make moral claims and moral judgements everyday. Even knowledge itself caries an ethical ought to it, you ought to believe what’s true. But again, without the God of the Bible I don’t see any compelling argument for human morality or ethics. Francis Schaeffer says, “If there are no absolutes by which to judge society, then society is absolute” and in the same vein, Vern Poythress says, “Without God, it is difficult for human beings even to articulate where moral obligations come from… if there is no transcendent source for moral standards, what are moral ideas except subjective preferences thrown up by our glands? Instinctively we know better than this. But the attempt systematically to exclude God leads to suppressing these God-given instincts”. If morality is subjective then how arrogant would it be to claim that our society’s law to not enslave people should be the law for other societies or for the world. If morality is relative to society then how could we condemn Hitler’s Germany for it’s horrific genocide? If morality is person relative then what’s to stop a bully from beating up a smaller kid. Sure the smaller kid doesn’t like it but the bigger kid does, so who’s to say which one is right. I guess they would both be right. A lot of arguments for morality can be demolished by asking simple questions like “why”, “says who”, “so what”, and “who cares”. I know it sounds childish but when someone says every person should have the same rights but they don’t believe our rights are given to us by God, then those childish questions can be pretty devastating. Jeff Durbin gives some helpful advise to that person, “If ‘So what’ is a philosophically devastating critique of your worldview, it is not a worldview you should hold on to any longer.”
There are different schools of thought when it comes to ethics, John Frame breaks them down into three categories, The Existential, The Deontelogical, and the Teleological. Existential ethics come from within, from good character. Deontelogical ethics is about duty and doing the right thing as if the right thing is a brute fact. Teleological ethics is about situations like finding the lesser of two evils in a given scenario. Now obviously those are very brief summaries of lots of different theories but the point I want to make is that without God there is no ethical ought that governs the different ethical theories.
If God is real and if He’s revealed His will to us on how we ought to act towards Him and others then we have an ethical ought. We ought to love God with all our hearts, minds and souls. We ought to love our neighbor as ourselves. Those three traditions of ethics and all the schools of thought that make them up have a justification if their backed by the Word of God. If the God of the Bible is real then it’s our duty (deontelogical) to obey Him. If the God of the Bible is real then our hearts should embrace His will and we should enjoy behaving virtuously (existential) according to His standards. If the God of the Bible is real then we should consult His Word in ethical decision making (teleological). Without the doctrines of the Bible I don’t find any one’s attempts at providing the “ethical ought” persuasive. I know people will say “I don’t need a God to tell me not to kill my neighbor” but on their worldview It’s hard to justify why they believe that, outside of throwing up a brute fact statement like “somethings are just right and others are just wrong”.
The Bible on the other hand says we are made in God’s image to represent His nature and character to the rest of His created order. The Bible says that we have been made with a conscience and the moral law is written on our hearts. This makes sense of why we talk about fairness, justice, mercy, liars, cheating, murder, rape, empathy, morals and ethics in general. We have been made to be rational, spiritual, emotional, moral and ethical beings. “But Park, why do different cultures have different moral codes!?” Well, I think the Bible makes sense of this as well. The Bible teaches that we are sinners. We have been made good, but we turn away from God, we don’t fear Him or start our conceptual systems with His revelation, instead we turn to our own autonomy and set ourselves up the god of our own lives. God’s image has been marred, we all have a conscience but it’s been infected by sin. So we all have the proclivity to be moral but our moral codes don’t match up because we’ve set ourselves up as the highest authority rather than God. When you submit yourself to God’s Word, you begin to be realigned to God’s will, you’re morals are progressively transformed into conformity with God’s. When we set our own standards up as ultimate, it’s understandable that we will have wars and conflict. We need a standard outside of ourselves, we need God’s Word to restore our broken conscience.
Everything I’ve talked about so far has assumed personality. I find personality particularly hard to account for in other worldviews, both secular and religious. Where does personality come from? How does an impersonal universe give rise to a personal sentient being on the atheistic and agnostic worldviews? And for the other religions and deism, where does speech and love come from if your god is 1 god and 1 person? Who was that god loving before it made humans? That kind of god would be dependent on it’s creation for the ability to speak. This kind of god would have to go from speaking to no one, to creating humans and changing it’s fundamental nature of not speaking. I don’t know any religion that believes this of their god, but it seems to me that this is the logical conclusion of a unitarian god.
The Christian God of The Bible is 1 God and 3 Persons, The Father, The Son, And The Spirit. I believe the Trinitarian God of Scripture can make sense of speech, love, and personality. This God isn’t dependent on His creation for His speech. The Father has been speaking to The Son from eternity past, and the Son to the Father, and Both to the Spirit. This God is capable of love. God the Father has loved the Son from eternity past and visa versa. This God is absolute personality, out of Love He created human persons like Himself, with the ability to speak, to love, to choose, to have interpersonal relations with others. Francis Schaeffer puts the last nail in the coffin, “Biblical Christianity has an adequate and reasonable explanation for the source and meaning of human personality. Its source is sufficient – the personal God on the high order of Trinity. Without such a source men are left with personality coming from the impersonal (Plus time, plus chance.)…because these men will not accept the only explanation which can fit the facts of their own experience they have become metaphysical magicians.” (The God Who Is There, Schaeffer, 94,95). I love that Schaeffer calls them metaphysical magicians haha. Men say they believe certain things about reality but most of them are unwilling to follow their beliefs to their logical conclusions.
Closely related to personality is speech. Vern Poythress eloquently explains how speech itself is analogous to the Trinity, “A speaker communicates ideas, that is content. So it is natural to associate the particular meanings of a particular discourse with the speaker. The meanings are expressed in discourse which has grammar. And they are carried through a medium such as breath and sound. The threefold distinction between content, grammar, and medium has its origin in God. God as Father gives content; the Son as the Word gives the “grammar” of divine speech; and the Spirit as breath provides the medium for delivery of the speech.” I find that to be so unbelievably profound! I believe Christianity alone can make sense of human personality, love, and speech.
The Wisdom of The World vs. The Wisdom of The Word
Another reason I believe in God is the failure of the wisdom of the world. The Bible makes some strong claims about the world, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and I will set aside the understanding of the experts. Where is the philosopher? Where is the scholar? Where is the debater of this age? Hasn’t God made the world’s wisdom foolish?” (1 Cor. 1:18-20). I believe He has. There are a couple philosophical tools that Cornelius Van Til and John Frame use to analyze philosophies and other religions that i’ve found extremely helpful.
One tool is the “rationalist/Irrationalist dialectic”. This tools shows how every philosophy that isn’t based on the Word of God oscillates between rationalism and irrationalism, an inconsistency that destroys its coherence. Rationalists, for instance, have very rationalistic conceptual systems (duh) but their starting point is irrational, they can’t justify their reason or why it’s their starting point. It’s as if they just jump to it and say now I can build but their feet are planted in mid air. Irrationalists on the other hand are cool with being irrational, but in order to be consistently irrational they have to employ rationalism.
Another philosophical tool used by Van Til and Frame is the transcendence and immanence diagram. This diagram can be used to examine philosophies and other gods of other religions. The God of the Bible is transcendent and separate from His created universe. He is able to interact with His universe and not be changed according to the Bible. I believe this kind of God can make sense of the universe we inhabit. But the Vantillian/Framean tool shows how other gods can’t live up to the Christian God. For instance the god of islam, Allah, is said to be transcendent but muslim theologians say that he cannot be bound by the Qur’an or else he would lose the transcendence that the Qur’an says he has. If that’s correct then it seems to be a pretty big contradiction. So the god of Islam falls too far on the side or transcendence to be known by humans. The Immanence side of the spectrum analyses other religions who’s gods are so close and so personal that they cease to be separate from creation all together, and can’t account for how we all got here.
There’s an old problem in philosophy called the problem of “the one and the many” that I think Christianity can uniquely account for. This problem is the problem of unity and diversity, the forms and the particulars. Philosophers have debated on both ends of the spectrum, monists believing that all is ultimately one and atomists believing that all is ultimately many. The problem comes when we look at a particular like a dog and ask what makes it a dog. What makes that particular dog fit the category or “form” of dog? It has four legs and canine teeth and all sorts of characteristics of dogginess but this dog is distinct and different from every other dog. Around and around they go trying to find the abstract form “dog” that can perfectly capture it’s essence. Or they focus in on the particular dog so much that it can’t be connected to the others. Van Til says that the Trinity solves this dilemma. God is 1 God, 3 Persons, God is unified and diverse. God made this universe (notice universe is the unity of diverse objects and phenomena throughout space) and so it will represent His nature. He is the ultimate personality, since He is unified and diverse we wont be able to find an ultimate unity or an ultimate diversity. We will always experience unity and diversity. Think about it, categories would be meaningless without theirs particulars, you can’t think of “chairness” without picturing a specific kind of chair in your head. I think this is pretty legit.
One last tool of philosophy that i’ve found helpful in analyzing worldviews is the three perspective test. Ravi Zacharias succinctly explains the method, “whether Hitler or Hugh Hefner, religious or irreligious, everyone has a worldview. A worldview basically offers answers to four necessary questions: origin, meaning, morality, and destiny. In turn, these answers must be correspondingly true on particular questions and, as a whole, all answers put together must be coherent. Taking it a step further, the three tests for truth must be applied to any worldview: logical consistency, empirical adequacy, and experiential relevance. When submitted to these tests, the Christian message is utterly unique and meets the demands for truth.” (Think Again – Deep Questions, RZIM.org). Ravi’s three tests perfectly correspond to John Frame’s Christian theory of knowledge called “Triperspectivalism”. This theory views human knowledge from three perspectives. The normative perspective looks at norms, standards and presuppositions. The situational perspective looks at interactions and specifics. The existential perspective looks at the subjective experience. You may notice that I’ve set up this post based on his theory, my foundational reasons are normative, my observational reasons are situational, and my experiential reasons are existential. Frame bases his theory on the Lordship attributes of God, the Lord’s Authority, His Control, and His Presence. Frame and Ravi’s understanding of a worldview is that it should cohere with itself and it should make sense on it’s own standards. It should correspond with reality, for what good is a worldview that makes sense of itself but not of reality? And it should be pragmatic, it should work for the individual, making sense of their external and internal subjective experience. When held up to these tests, I think the wisdom of this world fails on it’s own standards, I don’t think it corresponds to the reality we live in, and I don’t think it makes sense of our subjective inner life or our interpersonal relations.
Since secular philosophy and other religions fall apart, I hold firm to Christianity as revealed through the Bible. “Secular philosophy with or without presuppositions has been shown to be a failure. The verbal revelation of The Bible solves the problems of epistemology, history, ethics, and religion. It distinguishes truth from error. It preserves intelligibility. It banishes mysticism, emotionalism, and despair. And by it we receive the Reason of God, that is, God himself.” (Intro to Christian Philosophy, Gordon H. Clark, 122.)
I want to end my Foundational Reasons section with Charles Spurgeon, the Prince Of Preachers, as he reminds his readers of the failures of human “wisdom” apart from God.
“But have ye not noticed, in reading history, how God has abased the pride of wisdom? In ages long gone by, he sent mighty minds into the world, who devised systems of philosophy. ‘These systems.’ They said, ‘will last forever.’ Their pupils thought them infallible, and therefore wrote their sayings on enduring parchment, saying, ‘this book will last forever; succeeding generations of men will read it, and to the last man that book shall be handed down, as the epitome of wisdom’. ‘Ah!, but,” said God, ‘that book of yours shall be seen to be folly, ere another hundred years have rolled away.’ And so the might thoughts of Socrates, and the wisdom of Solon, are utterly forgot to now; and could we hear them speak, the veriest child in our schools would laugh to think that he understandeth more philosophy than they. But when man has found the vanity of one system, his eyes have sparkled at another; if Aristotle will not suffice, here is Bacon; now i shall know everything; and he sets to work and says that this new philosophy is to last forever… But, alas! Another century comes and it is found to be ‘wood, hay, and stubble.’A new set of philosophies rise up, who refute their predecessor. So too, we have wise men in this day – wise secularists, and so on, who fancy they have obtained the truth; but with another fifty years… and that man shall be thought a fool that was ever connected with touch a race. Systems of infidelity pass ways like a new dew-drop before the sun, for God says ‘I am God, and beside me there is none else.’ The bible is the stone that shall break in powder philosophy, this is the mighty battering ram that shall dash all systems of philosophy in pieces… O Church of God! Fear not; thou shalt do wonders; wise men shall be confounded, and thou shall know, and they too, that He is God, and that besides him there is none else.” (Sturgeons Sermons v1, Charles Spurgeon, 9.)
“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” Psalm 19:1-2
I think the universe screams of it’s Makers fingerprints. I think the arguments put forth by naturalists don’t account for the universe as we observe it or the origin of how we got here. To set the stage for this sections I’ll quote American Biochemist, Michael Behe, “the impotence of Darwinian therory in accounting for the molecular basis of life is evident not only from the analysis of this book, but also from the complete absence in the professional scientific literature of any detailed models by which complex biochemical systems could have been produced… In the face of the enormous complexity that modern biochemistry has uncovered in the cell, the scientific community is paralyzed. No one at Harvard University, no one at the National Institutes of Health, no member of the National Academy of Sciences, no Nobel prize winner – no one at all can give a detailed account of how the ilium, or vision, or blood clotting, or any complex biochemical process might have developed in a Darwinian fashion. But we are here. All these things got here somehow: if not in a Darwinian fashion, then how?” (Darwin’s Black Box, Behe, 187).
Brilliance In Nature
There are some things in nature that are so brilliant I’m compelled to believe in God. Take trees for example. Trees are so wise! They send their roots out in search of water with the duel purpose of supporting the trunk and the branches. Most trees send their roots down as deep into the ground as their branches extend up into the sky as a counter balance. Trees use photosynthesis in their leaves to convert solar energy into nourishment, and when it gets cold and they don’t need as much energy they lose their leaves. They have an inverse relationship with the animal kingdom when it comes to breathing. As animals breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide trees take in that carbon dioxide and off gas oxygen. Trees are like organic air filters for our world. They all have unique and tricky ways of dispersing their seeds. Some shape their seeds into helicopters so the wind will take them to a place close buy with similar conditions so they can grow but not so close that they will be in direct conflict with themselves. Others cover their seeds with fruit so that animals will come and do the hard work of seed dispersal. The animals eat the fruit and poop out the seeds which can be used as compost for the seeds. Trees are so smart. But that does’t quite sound right does it? I mean they’re aren’t sentient beings, they’re aren’t like the Ents in Lord of The Rings. You can’t reason with a tree or play chess with it. I think our first reaction to say “wow, that’s brilliant” is appropriate, but I think our adoration should find it’s way to God instead of terminating on the tree. The creativity and intelligence present in a tree is just further evidence that God’s “invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Romans 1:20).
Another favorite creature of mine is the Alligator Snapping Turtle. If you don’t know about these monsters you gotta look them up. Alligator Snappers are some of the biggest freshwater turtles in the world. They can live for hundreds of years and grow to hundreds of pounds. Recently giant snappers have been found with musket balls lodged in their ancient shells from the civil war era. How do these guys grow so big and live so long? They have a special adaptation (yes, Christians believe in adaptation and “micro evolution”) that helps them conserve energy. These beasts thrive because of their little pink worm tongue. That’s right, they have a tongue that looks just like a worm. The snappers sit at the bottom of rivers, perfectly camouflaged, and open their sharp jaws to reveal their pink worm tongue. When a fish swims by the turtle’s tongue fills with blood which makes the tongue bright reddish/pink. When the fish moves in for a closer looksie…SNAP! Lunch is served. Now when I see that, I think “wow what a clever turtle”. But the turtle isn’t particularly smart, he’s actually kind of a dumb brute, a cold blooded killing machine. He can’t figure out complex puzzles or tell you a witty tale, he’s just a turtle. But the cleverness inherent in this Alligator Snapping Turtle should be attributed to the good God who made it.
You may be thinking, “that’s convenient to pick and choose the attributes you like in nature and attribute them to your Sky daddy, Park. But what about all the bad stuff in nature?” Well, that’s a good point, but that’s why we interpret nature in light of revelation and not just revelation in light of nature. God’s word is my standard, If I start with God’s word and who He’s revealed Himself to be, I see that God is good and that we humans introduced sin into this world. This world is broken and that’s why nature is a mixed bag. So we can safely attribute to God that which He’s attributed to Himself.
Awe and Wonder
Awe and wonder are closely related to my last section on brilliance. We humans look at nature and marvel. The 8 wonders of the world, what ever those are today, are wonders because inherent in humanity is the capacity and compulsion to be amazed by things. We go out into nature and sacrifice our own comfort just to experience the wonder of being “outdoors”. We sleep on the hard ground, we climb big hills and mountains, and we pay all sorts of expenses to experience nature.
I dare you to watch Planet Earth or the Life series and not feel emotion. We feel the tension of hoping that the gazelle can out run the mother Cheetah, while at the same time we know if the Cheetah fails, it’s children will die. We experience a sense of awe watching animals create intricate homes and nests. We feel the amazement of seeing a gigantic great white shark blast a seal 15 feet out of the water. We get a sense of justice watching a killer whale hit a shark just right and then eat it’s liver. “That’s what you get for eating all those poor seals, son!”
While those nature shows depend on human awe and wonder, they erode the foundations of such emotion when they espouse a merely naturalistic-evolutionary worldview. This reminds me of what C.S. Lewis said back in 1944, “And all the time- such is the tragi-comedy of our situation- we continue to clamor for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more ‘drive’, or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or ‘creativity’. In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.” (The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis, 26).
I find it ironic that nature shows depend on mankind’s sense of beauty, wonder, awe, shock, amazement, love, and the full range of emotions, while their naturalistic worldview would undermine such experience and relegate it to mere chemical processes fizzing in our brains. On the naturalist’s worldview, such emotions are merely survival instincts, we are a cosmic accident, bags of chemicals, with no transcendence, no soul, no free will, ultimately we’re just the result of time and chance acting on matter. I think that’s wildly counterintuitive.
The major competing metaphysical paradigm to Christianity is that of naturalism. I Haven’t found naturalism particularly compelling for many reasons but one of the main ones is that it can’t account for logic, personality, free-will, love, or personality. Ronald Nash recounts an argument he learned from one of his professors in his apologetics class that i’ve found very interesting. The argument goes like this: if you’re riding on a train and you look out and see a hill with a bunch of large white rocks spelling out welcome to Ohio, there are two possibly ways the rocks got there, by chance or by design. I suppose it’s possible, though highly improbable, that the rocks got there by chance. Perhaps a dump truck got in a crash on the top of the hill and the rocks rolled down and coincidentally spelled out the message “welcome to Ohio”. Again, improbable but possible. If those rocks got there by chance, you’d be a fool to read the message it spells for content. If you believe that those rocks got there by chance and read the message they accidentally spelled out then you’d be pretty foolish. In that paradigm no one is trying to convey a message to you and you would not be justified in reading it and believing you’re in Ohio. That’s a pretty obvious point right? But that’s what the naturalists do with reason. They believe we acquired the skills of reason by chance acting on matter over time, then they use reasoning skills to seek truth. I think it’s just as silly to believe that as to read the accidental rock slide for information.
Another similar argument against naturalism is from Alvin Plantinga and C.S. Lewis. It basically says if evolution happened, and that’s the sole purpose we’re here, why would we evolve to know truth rather than falsehood that helps us survive. Plantinga even uses Charles Darwin’s own doubts to strengthen his claim,”But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would anyone trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?.” I find the fact that naturalism can’t account for logic, or truth, compelling evidence against it. not to mention the fact that love and free will would be relegated to mere chemical processes in the human brain and thus illusory.
Another reason I don’t find naturalistic-evolution particularly compelling is because of the scientific method. The theory of evolution is said to be a scientific theory, yet it’s not testable, reproducible, or observable because it’s said to take billions of years to observe. To me that seems like a major flaw, I think it should be called a philosophical theory rather than I scientific theory, but I wont pretend to be a scientist.
“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good. Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!”
Some of the most compelling reasons for my belief in God are my experiential reasons, I’ve tasted and seen that the Lord is good. I truly believe in the rational reasons to hold to my faith, and the observable reasons that make sense of the universe, but truly the most compelling reasons are the personal ones. These are the one’s that are harder to prove but more powerful when you experience them for yourself. This section will have much more of a personal flavor to it as I expound of the more subjected aspects of my faith in the God of the Bible.
People Are Changed
“The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever” -John Piper
One of the most compelling evidences for me is the conversion and transformations I’ve seen people go through. When someone gets up in front of the church and gives their testimony I’m almost always moved to tears. People tell the whole church about how they were wrong, how they were full of sin and loved it, and how when they were in control of their lives everything was crumbling. They go on to testify to how God saved them from themselves, how He graciously began to work in their hearts and change their desires. And this is a voluntary action, no one is putting a gun to their heads, they just want to tell everyone else how amazing God is and how good He’s been to them.
Closely related to seeing people changed is seeing other believers care for people. To me this is an astonishing evidence for Christianity. When I see people freely giving of their resources to help support missionaries or when they travel overseas to help build houses and wells it strikes a cord with me. It’s not part of biblical Christianity to earn your salvation. Christian charity isn’t out of compulsion, we don’t believe we can ever be good enough to earn God’s favor. It’s because we feel God’s free grace and favor that we want to be used by Him to show others how awesome He is. It’s not just the actions themselves, there are other religions that give and do missions, it’s the heart behind it that gets me. We’ve been shown love and it changes us, so we want to show that love to as many people as possible, that’s continually encouraged me in my faith.
Since I finally submitted my life to God through putting my faith in Jesus Christ, my life has radically changed. I like to think of my desires as a cake. Before God fully got a hold of my heart I gave Him lip service, superficial I wanted to “honor” Him, this was the frosting. But the actual deep cake desires were for myself, my own glory, my own honor, my own fame. I wanted to be worshipped and at the culmination of that praise and worship I thought I’d give an interview where I say something like “all glory to God”. What a douche. But now after I’ve given my life to Christ my desires have flipped. Superficially I struggle with vanity and wanting to be noticed and seen as some kind of intellectual Christian, but that’s not what my heart truly cries out for. The cake portion of my desires are now for God. I want to know Him more! I want to experience His love and power. There is a God who made me, who has numbered the hairs on my head, who has knit me together in my mother’s womb, who knows all my deep dark secrets and can recount them in greater detail than I can, and yet He’s chosen to remember them no more? He’s chosen to love me in spite of myself? How could I not live for that kind of God? How could I not surrender my life to Him? How could I not want to worship Him and see Him face to face? I’m now more free from myself and able to love God, able to love others and able to think of myself as a redeemed child of God instead of just a sinful wretch. This is why grace is so amazing.
Some of the greatest evidence for the truth of Christianity is when I examine my own heart. Yes, I’m still a sinner, I sin every day, but instead of making excuses for myself like I used to, now I absolutely hate it. My desires are to worship God with my actions and my inner thoughts and it drives me nuts when I don’t. The conviction of sin is a continual reminder that i’ve been changed. Why should I feel so disgusting after watching porn? Why should I be so upset with myself after lying to someone or gossiping? Why should I experience guilt if we’re just highly evolved apes? Some might say it’s a survival instinct, but if that were true why can’t I turn it off now that I’m cognizant of it? God is restoring my conscience after all the years i’ve spent marring and working hard to destroy it. I feel the conviction each day but now when I experience conviction I don’t despair or try to forget about it, instead I bring it to God and ask for forgiveness. I’m able to ask for the power to fight against all that is still evil in me. God progressively gives me power to fight my own self-centeredness, my own laziness, my own instinct to size up every guy I see or objectify every woman I see. My heart is a dark place, but God has shone His light in there and He’s changing me every day.
Reading My Bible
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
Reading the Bible for myself was a real game changer. The more I read the more I saw that this Book is like no other book ever written. It confronts me daily and yet I keep reading. It shows me how sinful I am compared to Christ and yet I love reading it now. It stays in my head all day and pops up in situations where I need wisdom. It’s not just some old book, it’s actually a collection of 66 books, it’s a library of God’s words. Some of it is poetry, some wisdom, some chronology, some propositions, some riddles, some parables, some heart wrenching stories of forgiveness and mercy, some epic recounts of war and pestilence, a history of the spread of Christianity, and some prophecy for the consummation of all things.
Once when I was reading Charles Spurgeon’s sermons I came across an analogy that continues to make my mind percolate. He describes how a silk worm eats leaves and converts the plant matter into energy and the very cells that comprise it’s body. The silk worm changes the leaves by consuming them. He went on to say that when we consume the Word of God it changes us. I love that. We take in God’s Word and instead of us changing it and making it conform to our preconceived notions, God uses it to transform us. We don’t make God more like us, when we read in faith, He makes us more like Him.
I notice when I don’t spend time reading my Bible. It’s so easy to fall back into my old self when I’m not actively consuming God’s Word. It’s like night and day. If I don’t read then i’m irritable, i’m short tempered, I start swearing more when I drive, I have horrible thoughts about random people and i’m so much less gracious. One of the guys that mentored me in college responded to the charge that “Christianity is a crutch” by saying “no, it’s not a crutch, it’s life support.” That’s so true. I’m dependent on the Bible and if I don’t spend time reading it I notice a black cloud over my head all day and my whole outlook on life sucks. One of the assistant wrestling coaches for the Iowa Hawkeyes Wrestling team, Terry Brands, calls his time in The Word “therapy”, I think this is extremely fitting. When i’m in there i’m encouraged, confronted, admonished, relieved, filled with hope, excited, astonished, awestruck, moved, remorseful, you name it, the Bible brings me through the full range of emotions.
Greatest Story Ever Told
The over arching story of the Bible is the greatest story ever told. It tells of paradise, paradise lost, the most sinister villain ever, insurmountable odds, the rise and fall of nations, adultery and betrayal, revenge and justice, mercy and grace, overwhelming despair, and finally the greatest mercy and hope of all time.
My pops is a writer. He’s been writing short stories for as long as I can remember. In typical Settecase fashion he dove all the way in head first and obsessed over every detail of his hobby. In his years of writing and reading great writers to learn what makes them tick he found that the best stories involved death and resurrection and the hero taking a beating before his triumph. There are two ways of relating these themes to the Bible. One could look at this and say well that’s proof that Christianity is a fable, just following the classic example for a good story. Or you could look at the story of the Bible as evidence for why we like this prescribed outline for good stories.
God has planned for the story of Christ from eternity past. He knew every detail of it before He created the universe. If He created us in His image to represent Him, is it any wonder why we like the same story type that our creator likes? Ever since Genesis ch. 3 God’s been telling the story of evil winning the battles and good winning the war. The story of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation has permeated every aspect of our fables, tall tales, kids movies, short stories, action films, and even chick flicks. Think about any super hero movie, things are going well, a villain comes and ruins everything, the hero gets whooped on, in a turn of events the hero beats the odds and vanquishes his foe, followed by happily ever after.
The Biblical story is the archetype for any good story. God created the world good, satan temped Eve and Eve tempted Adam and sin entered the world. Paradise is lost, human nature is broken and hope seems lost. God pronounces judgement closely followed by the foreshadowing of His redemptive plan for the world. Then comes a string of awesome stories each with their own foreshadowing of Christ. Then the hero steps on the scene in the person of Christ, misunderstood and hated by those he came to save, beaten and tortured, and wrongfully put to death. Hope is lost and it seems evil has dealt the final blow. Just then the greatest instance of ex machina takes place! The Google definition of Ex machina, or God in the machine, is a person or thing that appears or is introduced suddenly and unexpectedly and provides a solution to an insoluble difficulty.
Christ is resurrected from the dead. The death of death in the death of Christ. In the death of Christ Jesus, God’s plan for the atonement of humanity was completed, death committed suicide when it killed Jesus. Now anyone who puts their faith in him will not perish but have eternal life with Jesus forever. What looked like the end of all hope actually provided hope to the entire world. We are now living in the time between the victory and the happily ever after when Christ comes back to judge the living and the dead.
I find the fact that every good stories follows the archetype of the Bible as compelling evidence of it’s truthfulness.
“Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Genesis 1:26
Our love for animals is another reason I believe in God. I love animals, I really, really love them. I love dogs and frogs and turtles and snakes and toads and fish and bugs and weasels and alligators and… cats are ok. I don’t understand how people make sense of our love for animals from their other worldviews.
From the Christian perspective we love animals because God made us to. God made all of creation, He made animals and He made us to have dominion over them. Today the word dominion is a dirty word but I think it gets a bad rap. Dominion doesn’t mean exploiting creation for our own benefit and just raping the forests and streams. Dominion, in the biblical sense, is about being trustworthy arbiters of God’s will. We are made to care for nature, to help propagate species, to thin the heard when necessary, to have controlled forrest fires to get rid of the underbrush and replenish the soil etc. We are supposed to be faithful servants of God by representing Him to the rest of Creation.
I think this explains the joy I feel when I pet a happy dog. It’s genuine joy, I forget about everything else in the room and just love on that pup. There are few things as enjoyable as caring for your pets and proverbs 12:10 backs that up, “whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel”. I guess not everyone is an animal lover but for those of you that are, you know what i’m talking about. Others might experience this joy when they garden and care for their plants but the theme is the same, exercising dominion in a godly way feels so good and I believe it’s evidence for the validity of the biblical narrative.
Singing and Music
“Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises! Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody! With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD!” Psalm 96:4-6
I find music to be one of the greatest reasons for me to believe in God. I think the creativity shown by artists points to their Creator God who made them. I think the ingenuity put on display in the creation of musical instruments is truly miraculous, and further evidence that God made us to create in order to represent His creativeness. Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist, has proposed that string theory is evidence that the entire universe is made of tiny superstring particles that vibrate, he uses this to as evidence that there is a God and He made the universe musical. Whether that theory holds up or not I’m still astonished with music in general.
Humans love music, we feel it deep down in our soul. We belt out our favorite jams in the shower and we sing along with the radio in our cars with complete disregard for who’s watching. There are entire bars dedicated to karaoke. More than that, I think most of the land in Asia is dedicated to karaoke. If you’ve never been to Asia you’d be astonished with the amount of Karaoke bars, it’s ridiculous.
There’s some kind of deep spiritual satisfaction when we know the words and sing along, I believe it’s because we’ve been made to worship. We were meant to gather together and sing for joy, sing in lament, sing about hope and victory. If you don’t believe me go on YouTube and search “Cubs World Series”. You’ll see tears from past generations, and hear songs of lament and hope for the future. You’ll see pure joy and hear that beautiful “GO CUBS GO!”. There’s even a video taken from an apartment a mile away from Wrigley field where you can perfectly hear the fans singing at the top of their lungs. We were made to worship and our love for music is evidence of that.
Objections as evidence
This is getting way to long, if you haven’t noticed each reason is getting shorter. Let’s try and wrap this up. Many of the objections to Christianity end up bolstering my faith rather than eroding it.
Skeptics: Many self proclaimed skeptics attack Christianity because we say we have the truth and they think that’s arrogant and ridiculous. What they’re saying is, “you can’t know truth for certain… and i’m certain of it!” Similarly, relativists say all truth is relative so the objective truth claims of Christianity can’t be true. But if all truth is relative then that statement is false, if it’s objectively true that truth is relative then truth isn’t relative. If it’s false that all truth is relative then a relativistic philosophy of life fails.
Anti-theism: those who would attack Christianity from a secular worldview have to borrow Christian truths in order to do it. In order to raise the problem of evil, for instance, one must appeal to standards of good, but without God there aren’t any objective standards of good. I’ve written elsewhere on the problem of evil and how to deal with it, if you’re interested in it check out my blog, but this post is far too long as it is to deal in any depth with that problem now.
I want to finish up this short section with one of my favorite quotes from G.K. Chesterton on the inconsistencies of modern man,
“But the new rebel is a skeptic, and will not entirely trust anything. He has no loyalty; therefore he can never be really a revolutionist. And the fact that he doubts everything really gets in his way when he wants to denounce anything. For all denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind; and the modern revolutionist doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it. . . . As a politician, he will cry out that war is a waste of life, and then, as a philosopher, that all life is waste of time. A Russian pessimist will denounce a policeman for killing a peasant, and then prove by the highest philosophical principles that the peasant ought to have killed himself. . . . The man of this school goes first to a political meeting, where he complains that savages are treated as if they were beasts; then he takes his hat and umbrella and goes on to a scientific meeting, where he proves that they practically are beasts. In short, the modern revolutionist, being an infinite skeptic, is always engaged in undermining his own mines. In his book on politics he attacks men for trampling on morality; in his book on ethics he attacks morality for trampling on men. Therefore the modern man in revolt has become practically useless for all purposes of revolt. By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything.” (Orthodoxy, Chesterton)
This has been an attempt to give a reason for the hope that’s in me. Ultimately my faith doesn’t rise or fall based on my ability to defend it. I have a deep personally knowledge of God, I walk with Him daily, I know Him and He knows me. A sly epistemologist might be able to trip me up or make me question if I know my parents really exist, but at the end of the day I know my parents on a personal basis and I love them. Similarly, I know God on a personal basis and I love Him. Maybe you’re thinking “this dude is really brain washed, his Christianity has infected every area of his life and thought!”, well i’d agree but If Christianity is true shouldn’t it impact every area of my life and thought?
If you don’t know Him, I want to invite you to taste and see that the Lord is good. He is merciful and gracious. Come all you who are burdened and heavy laden. Christianity isn’t for good people, it’s for people who know their jacked up, it’s for people who know they need a savior, if that’s you, come! I’m just a beggar pointing out where the bread is. Turn from your perceived autonomy and trust in Jesus, submit your life to him and have hope and peace. God is good and His mercy endures forever, may He open your eyes to see and your ears to hear.