About two years ago, a good friend who we were doing House Church with in Tennessee encouraged my husband to start listening to a podcast about the existence of God. I heard words like “doctrine,” and “apologetics,” and “natural theology” and truly thought Ugh, don’t waste your time. You’ll get all boring and intellectual—we just need to love people and tell them about Jesus. Don’t make it complicated.
Here we are, two years later, and I’m ready to tell you—we DID get intellectual and it’s NOT boring and it was absolutely NOT a waste of time!!! Y’all. This has changed my life. It has secured my faith that I didn’t even know I was questioning. I am so confident and I believe I have real-life, solid reasons for why I believe what I believe. I feel like I am actually prepared to tell you why I believe there is a God and I promise it is not along the lines of, “you just have to have faith,” because I know that doesn’t cut it.
I learn best by teaching, so I’m going to try to re-iterate some of what I’ve learned over the past several months. I think I will cover either 4 or 5 arguments for the existence of God, each with its own blog post. I believe each argument alone is a good and solid argument, but looking at all of these arguments cumulatively I’m like HOW DO YOU STILL NOT BELIEVE?!? So, keep your eyes peeled in the coming weeks for the arguments that follow. For today, however, let’s define a “good argument” and get on to the first one.
First and foremost, I need to mention that almost all of what I’m going to be sharing here I have learned from Dr. William Lane Craig. He is a brilliant philosopher and theologian who I could go on and on about. I have learned by listening to his podcast, “Defenders,” but he has SO many other resources. I’ll share where to find them at the end of this post!
Okay. So since I am new to this highly intellectual scene, I’ll assume you are too and I’ll explain what I needed explained to me two years ago. For starters, there are rules to what makes an argument “good.”
A good deductive argument is a series of statements that logically follow and lead to a conclusion. Example:
Premise 1) The first day of the week is Sunday
Premise 2) Today is the first day of the week
Therefore today is Sunday
For an argument to be sound:
- It must obey the rules of logic (there are real rules…look it up if you’re curious)
- The premises need to be true
- The premises need to be evident to us (it might be true that Oprah Winfrey chose to spit in a puddle on March 29, 2005, but I have no idea!!)
- The premises need to be more probable than their opposites (I’m not 100% sure my car won’t crash on the way to the store, but it is more probable that I will be just fine, so I will continue to drive to the store).
Okay so here we go. The first argument I will propose is The Argument From Contingency by Gottfried Leibniz. Leibniz is quoted, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” In this argument we are looking for the answer to the big question What’s the explanation of the universe?
Here’s how it’s set up:
- Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of it’s own nature or in an external cause
- If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God
- The universe exists
- Therefore, the explanation of the universe’s existence is God
We have three premises and a conclusion (number 4). Keep in mind; the only thing an atheist has to do to escape the conclusion is to deny one of the three premises. This argument is logically airtight, so if the premises are true, the conclusion follows necessarily. So, are these premises true?
Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of it’s own nature or in an external cause
I would hope that we can all understand what it means to exist contingently—or because of an external cause. If your parents had never met, you would not exist. You exist because of an external cause. The screen you are reading these words on was manufactured, your table may have been made from a tree, trees were once seeds that had to be planted, etc., etc. External causes are the explanation for just about everything we encounter in day-to-day life. So what is this idea that something can exist out of the necessity of it’s own nature??
Whatever exists out of the necessity of it’s own nature HAS TO EXIST. It is impossible for such a thing to not exist.
You may be thinking, what HAS to exist??
Some philosophers have argued that abstract objects such as numbers, sets, properties (the brown-ness of a dog or the hardness of a table), and/or propositions exist necessarily. So the idea is that 2+2=4 even if there isn’t anything to count.
Are you still with me?
The argument here is that the explanation for God’s existence is out of the necessity of his own nature. In light of what we know about the universe, God—or to keep it generic, the Creator of our Universe—exists necessarily. A creator HAS TO EXIST.
Mr. Atheist might argue that the universe itself exists out of the necessity of its own nature. However, this quickly falls apart. Nothing we see in the universe seems to exist necessarily. To say that this universe exists necessarily is to say that it is IMPOSSIBLE for the universe to be any different than as it is in this moment. Yet, you could have worn a different shirt today, couldn’t you?? Does it really make sense to think you had to wear that specific shirt? Because if the universe exists necessarily, everything around us MUST exist exactly as it does out of necessity. And that just seems outrageous!
Also, for something to exist necessarily, it must be eternal in the past. We have STRONG scientific evidence that points to a beginning of the universe approximately 13 billion years ago. We will get into more of that in my next post. J
Now Mr. Atheist might say, “Well why does the universe have to have an explanation of it’s existence at all? What if the universe just exists inexplicably?” To which I say, let’s take a walk in the woods.
Suppose we are walking along and we come across a translucent ball in the middle of the forest. Our first instinct is to ask, “What’s up with this weird ball? Why is it here, in the middle of no-where? How did it get here??” This translucent ball begs for an explanation. If you wanted to walk right on past and say, “Eh, that ball just exists. Don’t worry about it, it just does.” I’d look at you like you were nuts! Now, imagine the ball was the size of a car. Now I am really thinking, “What the heck is the cause of this?!” Or what if it was the size of a house? Or the size of the Earth? Or the size of the universe! Size does not negate the need of an explanation.
The translucent ball illustration was presented by Richard Taylor, and I believe it is a pretty powerful visual to get you to understand why we need an explanation of the existence of our universe. In fact, the whole point of science seeks to find answers to questions like this. So to stand by Mr. Atheist and say that the universe doesn’t need an explanation of its existence is to exempt cosmology!
If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God
If the universe (all of space, time, matter and energy) has a cause, the cause HAS to be non-physical/immaterial, and beyond space and time. To make something, you cannot be bound by the limitations of your creation. SO…
- If atheism is true, the universe has no explanation of its existence
- If the universe has an explanation of its existence, atheism is not true
A and B are logically equivalent statements—either they are both true or they are both false.
If the universe does in fact have an explanation of its existence there are only two options that fit the required “non-physical, immaterial, beyond space and time” criteria:
1: A transcendent un-embodied mind (aka God)
2: Abstract Objects (number, sets, properties, etc)
Since abstract objects can’t cause anything (when was the last time the number 3 picked something up?), I think it’s safe to say that if the universe has an explanation of its existence that explanation is God.
The only other option here is to say that the universe just popped into existence, uncaused, out of nothing. I’m guessing that you don’t live in fear that when you are away a horse will appear in your room—uncaused, out of nothing—and defecate on your pillow. If your wedding ring was stolen and your neighbor’s pockets were searched, if your exact ring was found, he would not get off the hook by saying, “The same kind of ring must have just appeared in there, uncaused, out of nothing!” No one thinks that the bullet that killed JFK just appeared uncaused, out of nothing. We look for a killer because we do not expect things to simply pop into existence. The notion that things don’t just pop into existence is constantly verified and never falsified in all of humanity’s collective experience. So to use this as an explanation for the universe is far too high an intellectual price tag for me to pay.
The universe exists
Any real seeker of truth will not deny this premise. If you do try do deny this one, you aren’t real, this blog isn’t real and you’re probably crazy.
So! If this argument is successful, we are left with a necessary, uncaused, timeless, space-less, immaterial, personal creator of the universe!!! I call him God and he’s currently woo-ing me with all this intellectual stuff. This is my JOY!
Check my resources!
Study up on Dr. William Lane Craig’s website www.reasonablefaith.org (SO much valuable information on there!)
Also listen to his podcast “Defenders”—it’s a recording of a class he teaches Sunday mornings in Georgia and he is just BRILLIANT.
I would also love to talk more about this with anyone who has objections or questions or just wants to talk it out a little more. Feel free to get in touch!