Reasons for God
This is the first of two webpages of additional quotes and resources relating to Speak Hope Podcast episode 7: Know WHY You Believe.
“We KNOW Christianity is true... primarily by the self-authenticating witness of God’s Spirit. We SHOW Christianity is true... by presenting good arguments for its central tenets.” (William Lane Craig, philosopher)
“I don’t think arguments are [strictly] needed for rational belief in God. In this regard, belief in God is like belief in other minds, or belief in the past. Belief in God is grounded in experience, or in the... inborn inclination to form beliefs about God in a wide variety of circumstances. Nevertheless, I think there are a large number — maybe a couple of dozen — pretty good theistic arguments.” (Alvin Plantinga, philosopher)
17 ARGUMENTS FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
For an outline of the arguments, you’ll need to listen to the episode itself. This is just a list of the 17 arguments with a few quotes that can be helpful in discussing them. As different people find different reasons for God more compelling than others, we encourage you to commit to memory a simple explanation of THREE of the arguments that you find most compelling ...
Reason 1: God best explains the existence of something rather than nothing
“I never asserted so absurd a proposition as that something could arise without a cause.” (David Hume, skeptical philosopher)
“There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force, which brings the particles of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. But since there is neither an intelligent nor eternal force in the entire universe, we must assume the existence of a conscious and intelligent spirit behind this force. This spirit is the matrix of all matter. Visible, fleeting matter is not real, actual, or true—for matter would not exist, as we have seen, without this spirit—but this invisible, immortal spirit is true. But since there cannot be spirit without being, we must accept spiritual beings. And since spiritual beings cannot exist of themselves, but must be created, I do not hesitate to name this mysterious creator as all peoples of the earth of previous millenniums have called it: GOD.” (Max Planck, physicist)
Reason 2: God best explains the beginning of the universe
“With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape: they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning.” (Alexander Vilenkin, cosmologist)
Reason 3: God best explains the fine-tuning of the universe
“In the early expansion of the universe there has to be a close balance between the expansive energy (driving things apart) and the force of gravity (pulling things together). If expansion dominated then matter would fly apart too rapidly for condensation into galaxies and stars to take place. Nothing interesting could happen in so thinly spread a world. On the other hand, if gravity dominated, the world would collapse in on itself again before there was time for the processes of life to get going. For us to be possible requires a balance between the effects of expansion and contraction which at a very early epoch in the universe's history (the Planck time) has to differ from equality by not more than 1 in 1060. The numerate will marvel at such a degree of accuracy. For the non-numerate I will borrow an illustration from Paul Davis of what that accuracy means. He points out that it is the same as aiming at a target an inch wide on the other side of the observable universe, twenty thousand million light years away and hitting the mark!” (John Polkinghorne, quantum physicist)
Reason 4: God best explains the existence and complexity of life (and especially DNA)
“It seems to me that Richard Dawkins constantly overlooks the fact that Darwin himself, in the fourteenth chapter of The Origin of Species, pointed out that his whole argument began with a being which already possessed reproductive powers. This is the creature the evolution of which a truly comprehensive theory of evolution must give some account. Darwin himself was well aware that he had not produced such an account. It now seems to me that the findings of more than fifty years of DNA research have provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument to Design.” (Antony Flew, philosopher)
Reason 5: God best explains the mathematical order and intelligibility of the universe
“Why [does] the natural world always – so far as we know – obey laws of mathematics?... The enormous usefulness of mathematics in the natural sciences is something bordering on the mysterious and there is no rational explanation for it.” (Eugene Wigner, Nobel Prize-winning physicist)
Reason 6: The phenomenon of consciousness points to a non-material realm of reality
“There are a lot of hard problems in the world, but only one of them gets to call itself THE hard problem. And that is the problem of consciousness – how a kilogram or so of nerve cells conjures up the seamless kaleidoscope of sensations, thoughts, memories and emotions that occupy every waking moment.” (The New Scientist)
Reason 7: God best explains the existence of objective moral values
“[As an atheist] my argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?” (C.S. Lewis, author and apologist)
Reason 8: God best explains humanity's deepest, unmet desires
"Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists. A baby feels hunger; well, there is such a thing as food. A dolphin wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire; well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” (C.S.Lewis)
Reason 9: God best explains the universal human inclination to worship
"It is safe to say, that every one of [my patients] fell ill because he had lost that which the living religions of every age have given their followers." (Carl Jung, psychologist).
"'The yearning for some kind of God, does point toward an in-built hunger in each of us—a hunger for something greater than we are.' But every other hunger has its normal gratification. This is true of physical hunger, of love and sex, and of our craving for beauty. If, similarly, our religious hunger did not have its proper gratification, it would be difficult to see 'how it got built into our natures in the first place. What is it doing there?'" (Encyclopedia of Philosophy, citing Chad Walsh, poetry professor and apologist)
Note: This argument is less used now but was very popular in both the classical period and the 17th century. For information on some of its stronger formulations, see here.
Reason 10: God best explains the beauty of the natural world
“The acute experience of great beauty readily evokes a nameless yearning for something more than earth can offer. Elegant splendour reawakens our spirit’s aching need for the infinite, a hunger for more than matter can provide.” (Thomas Dubay, The Evidential Power of Beauty)
Reason 11: God best explains the transcendent quality of (great) music
“Only art penetrates… the seeming realities of this world. There is another reality, the genuine one, which we lose sight of. This other reality is always sending us hints, which without art, we can’t receive.” (Saul Bellow in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech)
“If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph: The only proof he needed for the existence of God was music.” (Kurt Vonnegut)
“There is, at least there sometimes seems to be, a certain blessedness lying at the heart of things, a mysterious blessedness, of whose existence occasional accidents or providences... make us obscurely, or it may be intensely, but always fleetingly, alas, always only for a few brief moments aware. In the Benedictus Beethoven gives expression to this awareness of blessedness." (Aldous Huxley)
Reason 12: God best explains the existence and power of love
“For love is a celestial harmony
of likely hearts compos'd of stars' concent,
which join together in sweet sympathy,
to work each other's joy and true content,
which they have harbour'd since their first descent
out of their heavenly bowers, where they did see
and know each other here belov'd to be.”
(Edmund Spenser, poet)
Note: You'll find this reasoning implicitly in thousands of pop songs!
Reason 13: The existence of the supernatural best explains paranormal experiences
"My recent [near-death] experiences have slightly weakened my conviction that my genuine death, which is due fairly soon, will be the end of me, though I continue to hope that it will be." (A.J.Ayer, atheist philosopher who had a near-death experience)
Note: This very much depends on the experience of the individuals, but is a widely accepted reason in non-Western cultures.
Reason 14: God best explains dramatic or miraculous answers to prayer
... as per countless personal testimonies!
Reason 15: God best explains personal experiences of divine love
“And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5, NIV)
Reason 16: God best explains the historical facts surrounding the life of Jesus of Nazareth
“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” (C.S. Lewis)
Reason 17: God best explains the historical facts surrounding Jesus’ claimed resurrection
See here for quotes on the evidence for the resurrection.
WHAT ABOUT “PROOF”?
Sometimes sceptics will object to Christian beliefs by claiming those beliefs have no “proof” to back them up. However, often those people make such statements without any serious thought about what it means to prove something.
One thing that is useful to point out to people is that in the sphere of science, only SOME aspects of science are really “provable” in the sense people usually mean. These “proofs” relate to phenomena that are REPEATABLE. If the same experiment can be repeated under the same conditions leading to the same result, we generally say that this “proves” some sort of law or principle. These are the kinds of experiment we all did at school.
But there are plenty of things in science that we CAN’T prove in this way, because they are not repeatable, such as a supernova, or the Big Bang, or the extinction or long-term evolution of a particular species. With those kinds of things we can’t prove them by repeating them in a laboratory. Instead we look at the evidence, we consider the possible explanations, and we believe the best explanation. After rational inquiry, we choose which theory to BELIEVE. Many arguments for the existence of God are like this: they claim to be the best explanation of the phenomena they refer to.
When it comes to the evidence for Jesus specifically (see here for more quotes on that), another thing that people must realise is that this is a historical inquiry, which makes talk of “proof” nonsensical. Historians don’t investigate history by trying to repeat history in some strange “history lab”. Rather, historians do what lawyers and forensic scientists do: they gather as much evidence as they can (through archaeology, written testimony, etc.); they study it carefully; they consider the possible theories that might explain the evidence; and they believe the best theory. That’s precisely what any seeker needs to do with the evidence surrounding Jesus.
IF GOD MADE EVERYTHING, THEN WHO MADE GOD?
Here is how William Lane Craig responds to this common objection...
"Probably the most common response that you’ll get to the kalam cosmological argument [Reason #2] is the retort, “What caused God?” This is usually put with an air of triumph, as though it were a profound and unanswerable question, a stake in the heart of theism. I am just amazed to hear this childish question even on the lips of intelligent professors. In fact, the question is easy to answer... the first premise of the argument is not that “Everything has a cause” but that “Everything that begins to exist has a cause,” and since God didn’t begin to exist, he doesn’t require a cause. Indeed, an eternal being cannot have an antecedent cause. So God is simply uncaused... [It’s] really a meaningless question It’s like wracking your brain wondering, ‘What is the cause of the First Uncaused Cause?’... Asking for God’s cause is sort of like asking for a bachelor’s wife." (Reasonable Faith)