I’m back…for those of you who were wondering where I was, I was here on planet earth, at my desk, pounding my head on it, typing frantically for a paper due tomorrow, and studying for three major exams I have tomorrow, Wednesday, and Thursday.

I thought I would take a short break and write a follow-up to my last post.

I believe the fact that rational thought exists is strong enough to “prove” the existence of God. That is, there can be no consistency in an atheist’s thoughts if he does not reach back to the fountain of logic, God.

However, there are many other “proofs” to God’s existence on which we’ll now embark. But before we go forward, the best analogy I heard was in my Philosophy class this summer. Each one of the “proofs” I am about to present have a hole in them. Some may want to discount the “proof” right off hand simply because it has a hole.

On the other hand, when we have holes in buckets and begin to stack them, one inside the other, they strengths from the other buckets make up for the holes in the other. So, putting the arguments together begin to form a strong wall against fallacious arguments against the existence of God.

This point must be understood before we move on. There is no slam dunk proof for God’s existence. Each will find a sticky point somewhere. However, one after the other put together begin to make a solid standing place for those in doubt.

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This post has 15 Comments

  1. Matt, this is a great point to build from – how you define “proof”. If one has the idea that there is a black-and-white, all-encompassing, non-refutable “proof,” one could not only get frustrated in searching, but ultimately draw an erroneous conclusion. However, as I’m sure you will continue to point out, there is more than enough evidence that proves the existance of God beyond a reasonable shadow of doubt.

  2. Thanks, guys. I will say this regarding “proof”. It is in the pudding. God has revealed himself to everyone, but man has hardened his heart to such a point that many other “proofs” have been offered.

    “Beyond a shadow of a doubt”, however, will only be possible for the person who truly desires to know. That is, no matter how many things we show, man will find an excuse for not believing.

    So I think the most powerful “proof” is the first one I posted on the topic, regarding rational thought. Without God in a person’s world-view, there is nothing coherent. They have to borrow bits and pieces in order for it to make sense. But when you put the bits and pieces together it makes no sense. An atheist has no rational basis for morality or logic or talking…

    I would love for this to be a springboard for more discussions and questions…so keep those comments and chastisements coming.

  3. Matt, you asked for articles or sources… one of the most interesting things I’ve recently read – especially regarding logic and rational thought – is from a book called “I’m Glad You Asked” by Ken Boa & Larry Moody. Well worth checking out I think.

  4. The book itself deals with several apologetic topics, the existance of God being one of several (others being the accuracy of Scripture, diety of Christ, hypocrisy in the church, etc.)

    What I liked about it was its approach based on logical progression on reason. For example, when asking the question “does God exist?”, you have 3 options; No, Maybe, and Yes. The writers the, in logical succession, examine each possibility. For example (and this is my own poor summary):

    If one says “No, God cannot exist,” reasonable rational thought must still include the possibility that He does given the amount of all knowledge there is to know in the entire universe as compared to the percentage of that amount the naysayer holds – and even the most arrogant would admit to knowing only a small percentage of all there is to know. So, in light of this, one could reasonably move to “Maybe God exists…”

    “Maybe” then deals with the definition of “proof” and kinds of acceptable proofs and evidences(legal, historical, scientific, direct, indirect, etc.) which flows into “something cannot come from nothing” and what they call the “If Statement”.

    The “if statement”, if i can remember it properly, goes something like this – “if something exists, than something must be eternal or else something not eternal came from nothing.” That leads into 4 options: The universe is an illusion (nothing exists); The universe emerged from nothing; The universe itself is eternal; The universe was created by an eternal being.

    They then present rational arguments that lead to the final of the 4 assertions above (a God/Creator must exist”) which flows to attributes such a God must have (personal vs. impersonal, moral vs. immoral etc.), etc.

    (it probably makes a lot more sense when you actually read it from the book, but hopefully you get the idea)

  5. Thanks, J ~

    It looks like I don’t have to post any more on this topic. You covered that pretty well…It sounds like a good read. I’m going to post tomorrow (after my last final) on Anselm’s argument from his work Proslogion. Hope you enjoy!

  6. Matt, that’s interesting that you brought up Anselm. I haven’t read the Proslogion but i did read Why God Became Man this semester. In this work he attempts (and succeeds according to himself) to “prove by logical steps” that the only way that man could have been saved was if God the Son became a man to die in his place. In the course of his argument he “proves” many other things (one among them being that man was created to make up for the number of fallen angels). I found that i had a problem with the presumptious tone of his writing and it got me to thinking about whether we as fallible, fallen humans can really “prove” anything about God.

    Anyway, apparently there will be more thoughts forthcoming on proving things and i’m interested to hear what Anselm had to say in the Proslogion.

  7. William… are you gonna blog? On your blog site? Blog, man… blog!

    Matt, when you start that next post, please give at least a brief explanation of Anselm and Proslogion – I don’t know what that is.

  8. I am not sure how I personally feel about the “bucket proof”, but one problem that I do see is that this sort of logic is somewhat like what is used by supporters of naturalistic evolution in “proving” their viewpoint. With each proposed evolutionary scenario that fits some of the data, there is a problem — some data that doesn’t fit into the scenario. Different scenarios are proposed which address the data that didn’t fit into one scenario, but those scenarios also have data that doesn’t fit. Logical arguments proposed have flaws, but we are supposed to believe because of the sheer weight of almost-proofs.

    This is not to say that we shouldn’t continue to have logical discussions with people or that all of our arguments have to be perfect. In fact, in my opinion is it better to be frank about the limitations of a particular argument than have people realize the flaws on their own.

    I have been thinking a lot about whether it is worth arguing about spiritual matters with people and I think that if truth be told, I often do it just because I like to argue (and enjoy the feeling that I am right). I have realized that I need to go into any discussion not trying to win an argument, but trying to bring glory to God. God may be glorified more by me saying, “that is a great argument and I don’t have a good response right now, but I would really like to look into it and discuss this with you further.”

  9. Great points, fellas ~

    I really appreciate your thoughts. Hararite, you really struck a chord with me. I oftentimes find myself arguing for the same reasons, just to win an argument. Thank you for the exhortation to get our hearts in check before we try to speak of things too wonderful for us.

    As regards the “bucket theory” you are right in being cautious. The point that I wanted to make is that there is going to be issues with analogies and explanations as pertains to the Infinite, All-Glorious Being. We have about 5 lbs. of brain. Trying to explain God is like a drop in the ocean.

    And see, even this analogy has faults because a drop in the ocean is finite and is compared to something, though magnitudes larger is still finite.

    The main point is that the heart must be changed first. Augustine said that he believed in order to know. I believe this is foundational to truth wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, not logical argumentation. Though this is helpful and not in opposition to faith, reason is not the end all for the faith. They are definitely necessary…and propositional truth provides foundations on which to build. However, I cannot believe until my heart is willing to receive. Not only this, but willing to have my life totally flipped upside-down. Make sense?

    Again, these comments have been great! Thank you and may we heed Hararite’s exhortation…that we do so with humility and love to God in our hearts. By the way, what is a “hararite”? I did a search on Wikipedia and nothing came up. But I did look it up in old Webster’s and the closest thing was a city in Ethiopia, named Harar, or the capital of Zimbabwe, Harare.

  10. You should have checked your concordance instead. :) Here is an excerpt from my essentially dead blog:

    The name of the blog and its writer come from 2 Samuel 23:11-12, which comes from a listing of David’s Mighty Men (his most famous and trusted warriors):

    And next to him was Shammah, the son of Agee the Hararite. The Philistines gathered together at Lehi, where there was a plot of ground full of lentils, and the men fled from the Philistines. But he took his stand in the midst of the plot and defended it and struck down the Philistines, and the LORD worked a great victory.

    No, I don’t think of myself as a great warrior, but I aspire to be someone who takes his stand for the Lord regardless of whether others are standing with me confident that victory is in the Lord’s capable hands. We live in a world in which many church-goers have abandoned biblical principles just as the men fled from the Philistines in the verses above. My confidence in not in my own strength or wisdom, but in God and His perfect Word, the Bible. My prayer is that when my life is over, it will be said “the Lord worked a great victory”.

  11. Duly rebuked. I did check my concordance after you mentioned it. Thank you.

    A quick point of interest regarding this passage is the fact that the author mentions that he defended a plot of lentils. Lentils were worth the least in the economy of the day. What is the point of this passage? The righteous act of the Shammah was in the fact that he was defending the promised land God had given Israel.

    Even the least valuable produce of the land was worthy of laying down one’s life. This was due to being convinced that the Land had been entrusted to Israel. This is quite the opposite of what we see in the Israelites when they were afraid of Goliath. They did not righteously defend the Land. This is why David’s boldness is so commended in Scripture. He lay down his life for the inheritance that God had given. How could an uncircumcised Philistine dare attempt to take the land away!

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God’s Broad Shoulders

One of the fascinating aspects of my profession is that I come in contact with a lot of Christians who want to engage with their faith in a deep way. Rather than being content with showing up on Sunday or being CINO (Christian In Name Only), these folks want to understand the Bible better and tease out the implications for their lives.

On the flipside of this, many of these same people are afraid to engage with their doubts in a deep way. It’s almost as if, doubts and questions are treated from a distance–“I don’t struggle with this, but…”

The biggest breakthrough in my own journey of faith came through (and continues to come through) engaging my doubts and questions as my own. They are not theoretical. They are honest struggles: problem of evil is the perennial one. I was in the throes of one of these bouts several years ago when a friend told me, “God can handle your doubts.”

I have used this same bit of advice for my struggling friends and self. If truth is not relative. If God is truth. Your doubts and questions will not overthrow this objective, transcendent truth. It’s not as though you are the first to struggle with doubts and fears and pain. The heavens will not collapse under the weight of your doubts. You won’t come up with a question that will cause God to close up shop. You can honestly engage with your doubts and fears and pain and suffering without having to be quick to give the typical and trite answers to matters of faith.

Go ahead, roll your burdens on God. He’s got broad shoulders.

Blow the Roof Off

Reading through Os Guiness’ new book, Fool’s Talk, for an Honors Seminar I’m leading on the art of persuasion. It is EXCELLENT.

I find that too many apologists take the defensive in explaining the Christian worldview. That has a place, but I would recommend that after you listen and listen and listen some more to the person you are engaging in dialogue, that you take the offensive. Of course, this is not being offensive, but taking the offense in showing the foolishness of the worldview. At some point the team has to score. If they only have defense, they will not score (okay, for the nay-sayers, the defense can score on a take-away…but even then there was an aggression to get the ball and not merely to prevent…BTW, prevent defense is such a great way to lose a ballgame, isn’t it?).

Here’s a juicy quote that I have underlined in the book:

From Jesus onward, the dynamic is crystal clear in Christian proclamation. “The tree is known by its fruit,” Jesus said–not by its seed (Mt. 12.33). If you had tried to persuade the prodigal son to return home the day he left home, would he have listened? If you had spoken to him the day he hit the pigsty, would you have needed to persuade him? Always “see where it leads to,” St. Augustine advised when dealing with false ideas. Follow it out to the “absolutely ruddy end,” C. S. Lewis remarked with characteristic Englishness. “Push them to the logic of their presuppositions,” Francis Schaeffer used to say. Too many varieties of unbelief are halfway houses. Too many unbelievers have not had the courage or the consistency to follow their thoughts all the way home –Fool’s Talk, p.118 (emphasis added)

Modern-day Power Encounters

I remember reading in my Perspectives Class on world mission a phenomenon called “power encounters” whereby a missionary would directly confront the idols of the day in some bombastic way to show the futility of such idols. For example, tearing down a totem pole or cutting down a tree (if these were the items of worship) in an area. While the confrontationalist in me loves the idea, I wonder how much was missed in these opportunities to really get to the heart of idolatry–namely, through teaching that idols are nothing (1Cor 8.4). Yet for those who worship an idol, it is very much a real thing.

I am currently reading Roland Allen’s formative text on mission, Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours, and have been immensely helped (in tandem with Lesslie Newbigin’s The Open Secret). Regarding the moral and social condition in which Paul preached, Allen makes this side comment:

Incidentally I should like to remark that in heathen lands it might still perhaps be the wiser course to preach constantly the supremacy of Christ over all things spiritual and material, than to deny or deride the very notion of these spirits. Some of our missionaries know, and it were well for others if they did know, that it is much easier to make a man hide from us his belief in devils than it is to eradicate the belief from his heart. By denying their existence or by scoffing at those who believe in them we do not help our converts to overcome them, but only to conceal their fears from us. By preaching the supremacy of Christ we give them a real antidote, we take them a real Saviour who helps them in their dark hours” (pp.28-29)

Allen brings balance. Too often preachers can assume they are preaching the supremacy of Christ, but they never pinpoint what exactly he is supreme over. Put another way, we preachers can preach rather generically. “Jesus is Lord over all!” We declare full throttle. Yet those listening have not been helped.

What is he supreme over?

He is supreme over your doubts of salvation. Your incessant anger. Your slavery to lust and pornography. Your boring and romantic-less marriage. Your bad parenting. Your disobedient children. Your greed. Your self-doubt. Your self-aggrandizement. Your obedient children. Your good parenting. Your healthy marriage. Your pure eyes. Your self-control.

He owns you. Therefore, the world doesn’t revolve around you anymore. Instead, he sets you free to think of others. Even more, he empowers you by his Spirit to think of other more highly than yourself. Your fears that you will be passed over for the job promotion. Your self-righteousness toward your unbelieving neighbor is set under his lordship in such a way that you no longer possess the answers, but are possessed by One who does. You cannot gloat that you understand the world en esse. Rather, you are saddened by the way the world actually is.

So, Christian, we need a modern-day power encounter. Not where we smash totems. But by understanding the world around us and helping others see our need for a Savior. We limp forward together. We bind up wounds together. We use the splint our arm is wrapped in to bind our neighbors’ arms. Thereby we see that instead of hiding the idol in shame, our neighbor is free to admit the idol and know that he will not be condemned but helped.