Is there a God? To quote Michael Scott from The Office, “If not, what are all these churches for? And who is Jesus’s dad?” Boom! It’s settled. Well, not quite. The ‘God question’ is the single most foundational question you could ask. No other question carries as much potential to shape one’s entire world-and-life view as this one. So, answering the God question will take a little more work than Michael Scott put in.
Throughout human history, many thinkers have taken up this question and sought an insane amount of ways to answer it- in both the affirmative and in the negative. We’ll briefly cover a few of each.
Why Would Anyone Say No?
Those who answer in the negative give many different reasons for their disbelief. Some thinkers point to the existence of evil and argue that if there were really a God, then there wouldn’t be any evil, but since there is evil, there must be no God. Others point to what has come to be known as divine ‘hiddenness’, that is, if God exists, then why does this question of His existence ever pop up at all? Why isn’t God’s existence so obvious that it would be impossible to ask ‘is there a God’? Still others reject the existence of God by arguing that the very idea of a God is mere wish fulfillment or a projection from mankind into the sky. And others argue that the idea of God is an outdated belief that used to do a lot of conceptual work for our primitive ancestors who weren’t as scientifically advanced as us, but now that we have better explanations, we no longer need to rely on the existence of a god.
Why Would Anyone Say Yes?
Those who answer the God question in the affirmative likewise have many different reasons for their belief. Some have pointed to the impossibility of an infinite regress of causes as evidence for a ‘first cause’. We see motion in the universe and intuitively know that something had to start this whole thing going. This First Cause is God.
Others point to the contingency we see all around us, that is, that things which ‘are’ could have ‘not been’ or could have been much different- including you and me- and from this contingency, they argue that there must be a necessary being who or which grounds all this contingency. This Necessary Being is God.
Others point to the inherent design we see in nature and argue for a Designer who stands outside of the universe and who continues to hold all things together. We see the irreducible complexity of so many operations at the microscopic level, or the information contained in DNA, or the complexity of the human eye, or the perfect placement of the earth in the universe for allowing life to thrive. In these and many other examples we can see the fingerprints of an Intelligent Designer. This Intelligent Designer is God.
Others argue that objective moral truths are real and make up an objective moral law which must exist and from this fact it follows that an objective moral Law Giver exists.
Some have been so brazen as to argue for God’s existence from the very definition of God. God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived. If you can conceive of a God that doesn’t exist, I can conceive of a greater being, namely, one that does exist! Or, as it has been argued more recently, God is maximally great and if He were to exist at all, He would exist necessarily. All of which an atheist could affirm saying “yeah, sure, ‘if’ God existed, then He’d exist necessarily. But He doesn’t exist.” To which the theist replies, well if God exists in any possible world, then that God, who has the property of necessary existence, exists in every possible world. In order to deny this the atheist would have to show that there is no possible world where God could exist, meaning something about the concept of God must be self-contradictory. A tall task to be sure.
Others point out the difficulty in following the reasoning of the arguments briefly laid out thus far and opt for the heart instead of the head. They make arguments from ‘feelings of dependence’, desire and longing, beauty, joy, and love amongst others. Proponents of these types of arguments claim that these immensely human experiences which make life worth living wouldn’t exist in a universe without an ultimate object or subject of said emotions and desires. God is the ultimate referent of these feelings.
Then there are those who opt not from their head, nor for their heart, but who argue pragmatically from their will. These proponents emphasize a leap of faith or a trial period where you live as if you believed in God. According to these thinkers, if you waited until all your doubts were gone and you have complete certainty, you’d never do anything. So, you might as well give faith in God a try since you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. If the atheist is right then you believed in a lie, you die and blink out of existence- no harm, no foul. If the theist is right, then you’ve gained eternal life with the God of the universe.
On top of all of these arguments, there are those who propose a cumulative case from the cumulative total of all these arguments. They argue that the First Cause, the Necessary Being, the Divine Designer, the Moral Law Giver, the Object of Longing, the Thing wagered on, are all the same Thing and this Thing we call God.
The Transcendental Way
Another important answer to the God question seeks an answer not in demonstration, nor in various proofs, but in the foundation for the very possibility of demonstrations and proofs. These proponents argue that in order to be able to ask the question “is there a God” at all, God must exist. Instead of looking at a piecemeal argument for God’s existence, or a bunch of piecemeal arguments put together, this argument says that the theistic world-and-life view, and more specifically, the Christian theistic world-and-life view, uniquely provides the foundation on which the God question can even be asked, therefore, to ask the question demonstrates that the Christian view of life and the world is the true one.
In asking the God question, a mountain of presuppositions is assumed: that human reason is capable of finding truth, that human language can accurately describe reality, that humans shouldn’t lie to each other about the existence of God, that rational dialogue is the appropriate way to interact, that the world is orderly and the future will be like the past, that truth is worth finding, that human life is intrinsically meaningful and thus valuable, and others. These presuppositions, it is argued, make sense for Christian theism, which holds that a rational, moral, volitional, personal God created the universe in an orderly fashion, and created human beings in His rational, moral, volitional, personal image- which make us intrinsically valuable and capable of asking each other questions like “is there a God?”. Image bearers who have sinned and have been separated from God’s love and intimate presence are precisely the type of image bearers who would recognize that there is more to life than matter in motion but who would, at the same time and for various reasons, resist acknowledging their Creator God.
What & Who
But while the arguments above approach God as an object whose existence can be demonstrated, and while some are more successful and intuitive than others, another important way of answering the God question is to view God as a subject. Not a what, but a Who.
Yes, God exists as the foundation for your ability to even ask the question. Yes, He knit you together in your mother’s womb. Yes, He is the God of the moral law which you have written on your heart which stabs at you every time you break it. Yes, He’s the one who designed the world, and holds the universe together. He is the One who necessarily exists, most definitely. But He is also the Personal God who loves you and offers His hand to you even now. He is the God of Justice, who offers mercy. Because of the cross of Jesus, God offers a renewed relationship with Himself through changing your mind about your perceived self-sufficiency and by trusting fully in Him.
The God we find as the conclusion of various arguments, and indeed as the foundation for argumentation itself, is the God who offers forgiveness today through His Son, Jesus Christ. This God, Who is the foundation of thought itself, is the same God you can direct your thoughts to even now. He is your Creator and the sustainer of your very life. Talk to Him.
Yes, there is a God.