Continuing our way through this series of posts in an area of the faith known as apologetics (i.e., explaining your faith), we come to a topic that’s paramount for anyone just beginning their exploration into the veracity of the claims of Christianity: Is God real? If you believe He is, how do you know?
To the extent that people in our culture even pay attention to the topic, it seems to have become increasingly fashionable to write off the notion of God and the stories in the Bible as mythology, along the lines of the stories of the gods and goddesses of Greek or Roman mythology. Science reigns supreme, or perhaps more commonly, a pseudo-science in which average people take other people’s word for it without validating the theories and assertions for themselves. Someone said so on social media, and they read a book or article about it, so it must be true.
Isn’t that what you’re doing here, smart guy? Declaring something as true?
Well, yes, except I’m not asking you to take my word for it. Everything I am saying in these posts is verifiable, and if you question anything I’m saying, I invite you to research it. If I say anything incorrect, I welcome feedback in the comments to set me straight.
What Is Reality?
To begin with, I want to address the question of what constitutes reality. A popular view in our culture today is that reality consists of observable, scientific phenomenon. There is only the natural world, things that can be measured.
This view obviously leaves no room for the supernatural–also known as the spiritual–world. Secularists contend that this is all a figment in the imagination of religious people. Myths dreamed up to attempt to explain the unexplainable.
To people who believe this, I would ask: Are you able to measure hope or love or joy? How would you explain creativity and imagination? Do any of these things impact the way you interact with others? In spite of your inability to measure it, can you tell when someone possess one or more of these things? If so, how?
And so on. Unless someone is able to explain these things away, I will hold on to my assertion that reality consists both of the natural world and the supernatural world.
Since God is not part of the observable, natural world, we have to assign him to the supernatural world. But based on the assertion that reality consists of the natural and supernatural world, no one can contend that God is not real based only on the fact that he is not part of the observable, natural world.
Science vs. Religion – Which is Correct?
Here is another assertion I will make: science and religion are not mutually exclusive. As we discussed in the previous section, science is able to measure and observe the natural world, but it is worthless when it comes to the supernatural world. This is where religion comes in. If I had only a hammer, that would be fine if everything I encountered was a nail. However, if I come across a screw, a screwdriver would clearly be the better tool for engaging with it than my hammer.
Having said this, though, I want to make an important distinction: just because religion deals with the supernatural, that does not mean that we should accept its assertions without applying logic and reason. But as I’ve said before, it’s also important to keep in mind that not everything in the supernatural world will be within our grasp to understand, even with the help of religion, just like not everything in the natural world is in our grasp to understand. This is why science continues to evolve and advance, in the same way that our understanding of God continues to evolve and advance.
But anyway, there is nevertheless an element of taking a step of faith when your investigation of Christianity leads you to a place, as it has many others before you, where your logic and reason-based approach leaves you no choice but to accept it as truth.
Back to the question of science vs. religion, the other thing I’ll say is that I am a computer scientist by training and trade, yet I have no trouble maintaining both a scientific and religious view of the world at the same time without losing my mind. And there have been plenty of people a lot smarter than I am who have also mastered the peaceful coexistence of science and religion in their great minds. For example, Francis Collins is the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He is a physician-geneticist who has both an MD and a PhD. Prior to being appointed to head the NIH, he led the Human Genome Project, which effectively mapped out human DNA for the first time. This is how he described enabling religion and science to coexist in his mind:
“So where, then, is the discordancy that causes so many people to see these views of science and of spirit as being incompatible? In me, they both exist. They both exist at the same moment in the day. They’re not compartmentalized. They are entirely compatible. And they’re part of who I am.”Francis Collins, from a 2004 PBS WGBH Educational Foundation Interview
He also had this to say about the interaction between science and faith:
Bottom line: you can and should use reason and logic and science when examining the validity of the claims of Christianity, including the assertion that God exists.
Philosophical and Science-Based Arguments for God’s Existence
I’m running a little long here, so I’ll try to go through these explanations for God’s existence quickly and include links in case you’d like to investigate further.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “teleological” is defined as “exhibiting or relating to design or purpose especially in nature”. Most commonly referred to as “intelligent design,” this argument contends that:
Some phenomena within nature exhibit such exquisiteness of structure, function or interconnectedness that many people have found it natural to see a deliberative and directive mind behind those phenomena. The mind in question is typically taken to be supernatural.Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
According to Got Questions?, the moral argument for the existence of God goes like this:
The moral argument begins with the fact that all people recognize some moral code (that some things are right, and some things are wrong). Every time we argue over right and wrong, we appeal to a higher law that we assume everyone is aware of, holds to, and is not free to arbitrarily change. Right and wrong imply a higher standard or law, and law requires a lawgiver. Because the Moral Law transcends humanity, this universal law requires a universal lawgiver. This, it is argued, is God.From Got Questions?
The cosmological argument for the existence of God is also known as the “First Cause Argument.” The idea here, according to All About Philosophy, is that everything has a cause, so there must have been a first cause. This first cause, it explains, was itself uncaused.
This idea was first put forth by Plato and Aristotle in the 4th and 3rd centuries BC. Thomas Aquinas later adopted the idea for his Christian world view in the 13th century, saying the First Cause is God. More recently, Christian philosopher William Lane Craig summarized this argument as follows:
- Whatever begins to exist, has a cause of its existence.
- The universe began to exist.
- Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence.
This argument is actually supported by modern science since “most scientific models for the origin of the universe, such as the Big Bang model, support the view that the universe had a beginning.”
So that’s it for now. There are others as well, but in an attempt to avoid boring you any further, I’ll leave it at this.
What about you–do you believe that God is real? Why or why not?