How Do We Even Know There’s a God?

This week, Pastor J.D. continues our Ask Me Anything series based on his new book, Essential ChristianityThe second question is, “How do we even know there’s a God?”

Show Notes:

    • This new book, Exploring Christianity, looks at 10 key words in the book of Romans to help us explore the truth behind Christianity. In Romans 1:19-20, Paul makes it clear that God has made himself and his existence undeniable. He says, “What can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what he has made.”
    • Now (like a lot of the book of Romans), there’s a lot of meat there, but Paul’s basic claim is that God has made the basic truths about himself known to every person who’s ever lived. He’s left his fingerprints in various places, if we have eyes to see them.
    • Philosophers helpfully grouped these fingerprints into four primary categories, and then unhelpfully gave them complicated names. I’m going to use those complicated names, but don’t let them trip you up. The concepts are pretty simple. I figure if we can memorize the name of our $14, 16-ingredient drink at Starbucks, we can learn these. And, if you happen to find yourself in a philosophical discussion about the nature of God at the Waffle House late one afternoon and drop in one of these multisyllabic masterpieces, it’s sure to increase your standing in the debate.
  • These are four ways that the apostle says God reveals himself in creation:
  1. The Cosmological Fingerprint
  • This one goes back all the way to Aristotle. It’s the question of why there is something rather than nothing, and where did the original something come from? 
    • If the world began 14 billion years ago with a Big Bang, where did the materials that caused the Big Bang come from? 
    • You can’t keep going back in infinite regress into nothingness. 
    • Eventually something has to come from somewhere. “Nothingness” can’t just explode. 
    • In his book God Delusion, Richard Dawkins admits this is a problem. He says, “Darwin’s theory works for biology, but not for cosmology (or, ultimate origins).”  And, “Cosmology is waiting on its Darwin.” 
    • In other words, he thinks that while they have explained how life took shape on the earth, he admits they still have no idea where life itself, or the materials that produced life, came from.
    • We need a theory, he says, as to why anything exists, because it is self-evident that nothing x nobody can’t equal everything. 
    • But don’t worry,” he says in the book, one day we’ll find it. (Which is a textbook example of a blind, hopeful leap of faith.)
  1. The Teleological Fingerprint
  • Not only do we have the question of why there is something rather than nothing, but our creation appears to be very finely tuned.
    • The more we learn about this, the more amazing it becomes. 
    • Scientists say that life on earth depends on multiple factors that are so precise that if they were off by even a hair, life could not exist. They call it the Goldilocks principle: things are “just right” for human life. 
    • The makeup of the atmosphere is very exact, yet it’s the difference between life and death. If some of those levels were even slightly off—for example, if the level of oxygen dropped by 6% we would all suffocate; if it rose by 4%, our planet would erupt into a giant fireball. And we’d all die.
    • Or, if the CO2 were just a little higher or a just  little bit lower (say, 0.01%), then the earth would either become an oven or have no atmosphere at all. And we’d all die.
    • Or this: The water molecule is the only molecule whose solid form (ice) is less dense than its liquid form. Which means that when it freezes it floats. If ice did not float, it would sink to the bottom and the whole ocean would eventually freeze from the bottom up and… we would all die.
    • Or the distance of the earth from the sun: If we were 2% closer to the sun, the planet would be too hot for water to exist. And we’d all die. 
    • And then there’s tilt of the earth, which is set at an ideal 23.5 degrees, which we’ve learned is perfect for temperatures and tides and such. You’ve probably never thought about it, but if it was was not tilted, temperatures would be extreme and we’d all die. At least the humans
    • One more for fun: We’ve learned that if Jupiter wasn’t the size and in the orbit it is, astronomers predict that there would be 10,000x the number of asteroid strikes right here on earth, and we’d probably all die. 
    • Jupiter is like the Luke Maye of planets, setting picks on asteroids so the earth can get open for the 3-pointer of life. Without it, our planet would be pummeled with asteroids and life could never exist.

Then we put up our telescopes and pull out our microscopes and we find the same complexity in the cell and atomic structure: 

  • Even the most basic DNA strands are incredibly complex, enough so that Francis Collins, head of the human genome project, says “How could a cosmic accident ever result in something of this digital elegance of a DNA strand?
    • It’s like thinking an explosion in an ink factory could inadvertently produce the collected works of Shakespeare.
  • And just so you know, these are not the conclusions of seminary grads doubling as amateur scientists. The late Stephen Hawking said in one of his later books, The laws of science, as we know them at present, contain many (precise ratios), like the size of the electric charge of the electron and the ratio of the masses of the proton and the electron… The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life.” Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time
  • You say, “Well, maybe we’re just lucky. In a universe as big as ours our planet was bound to exist somewhere and we just happen to be on it.” 
    • But scientists say that the odds of a planet like earth existing are so heart-stoppingly astronomical that the notion that it all ‘just happened’ defies common sense. It’s like tossing a coin every second and having it come up heads for 10 billion years in a row.
    • So, yeah, you can speculate that this part of the galaxy was just really, really lucky, but is that the best and easiest explanation for what we see? 
    • It takes an anti-God bias to arrive there–it’s usually that people have some other problem that follows from a God creating it all that makes them look at the evidence that way.
    • One scientist said; The greatest miracle of all time without any close second, is the existence of life on our planet! 
  1. The Moral Fingerprint
    • The very fact that we have moral feelings suggest the presence of a divine law giver.
    • This week I parked in parking garage and every few feet was a sign: “Keep your parking ticket with you.” Someone, somewhere, was going to ask for it! 
    • Sure enough: the restaurant; and kiosk on the way out… 
    • In the same way, feelings of guilt and moral obligation point to a Divine Lawgiver to whom we will give account. 
    • Feelings of guilt and moral obligation are common to all people in all cultures. 
    • And here’s the other thing: they are not present in any form in the animal kingdom. 
      • We all know cats, for example, seem to derive some pleasure from playing with a mouse before they eat it. Yet you never find a cat sniveling under the bed later feeling bad… That’s not just because they are exceptionally evil. It’s just in their nature. If a lion mauls a human, you never find him in the woods later wracked with guilt (Oh, what have I done?)… They don’t feel guilty for acting according to their natures.
    • Yet, we do. Doesn’t the fact that we all have feelings of guilt point to the fact that we are stamped with the image of some Divine Lawgiver, who has implanted in our hearts his sense of right, and truth, and love?
  • Even if we stop believing in God, we can’t shake this idea that we’re going to be held accountable one day.
    • One of my favorite illustrations about this is from Franz Kafka’s The Trial… Kafka intended that to be a picture of the human soul going through life. You have a voice inside you telling you’re guilty. 
    • Doesn’t that point to the fact that one day we’ll face the divine law-giver who has stamped his image and his requirements on our hearts?
  1. The Desire Fingerprint
  • He has shown the truth about himself to us, Paul says, and he has revealed it IN US.  
  • There are things in our hearts that tell us we are more than just accidental biology
  • Like our longings for love and meaning and eternity
  • The atheist philosopher Albert Camus said that we long for “love without parting,” but that a universe without God gives us only “the conscious certainty of death without hope.” 
    • Camus called this “the Absurdity of life.” He said life was one long, tragic, absurd comedy, as we seek things from life that life simply can’t provide. 
  • C.S. Lewis had a different answer: A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling 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 a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. 
  • I am not saying that these are proofs of God, but rather evidences of his existence—divine fingerprints. Sure, a fingerprint can be forged, but you’d need a compelling reason to believe it was forged before you wrote it off. In Romans 1, Paul is not so much concerned with building out logical proofs of God as he is pointing us to divine fingerprints which should be easy to recognize and reasonable to accept.
  • Paul’s point is that it takes an agenda not to hear the voice of God speaking in creation, because the voice is sufficiently clear.

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