Is God Real?
There are times when I wake up in the middle of the night and ask myself, “What if I am wrong, what if there is no God? Is God real?”
My answer surprised Roberta. She did not expect it because she thought that those of us who are in the ministry are so sure of our beliefs that we never doubt. Roberta’s husband and I played hockey together and one night a group of hockey players and our wives got together to socialize and have fun. In the middle of a lively conversation, Roberta lowered her gaze, looked me in the eyes, and asked me the piercing question, “Do you ever have doubts?” “Yes,” I said, and then after my admission, I added, “I think every true believer experiences times of questioning.”
Honest questions are good and healthy in the development of one’s faith. When I face doubts, I just go back over all the reasons (personally, experientially, and factually) that lead me to believe in Jesus Christ and the Bible. Upon reflection and review, I renew my faith and re-commit myself. Such occasions are neither rare nor threatening for me.
The most interesting comment that night, however, came from Roberta. As far back as Roberta could remember, she always considered herself to be non religious. But after I told her how I handle doubt, Roberta made a confession. “Well,” she said, “I often wake up in the night with a question that I can’t shake.” She became very serious and added, “sometimes I have grave doubts myself and I wonder, ‘what if I am wrong?’” Her words just hung in the air. Then Roberta topped it off: “I am afraid that I might be wrong and that I might go to hell.” Rarely are people so honest. Roberta was awakening to the fact that she had been pushing God out of her life for a long time.
The Bible teaches that we all intuitively and subconsciously know that God exists. As humans, our interaction with the created world somehow tells us that there is a God. Consider the following verses from the book of Romans.
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. (Rom. 1:20).
Like Roberta, most people sense that God is there and we should turn to him. You might want to go back through the verse and underline the two things that the Bible says everyone knows about God. This verse not only tells us that God exists, but that everyone knows about God’s eternal power and divine nature.
Sensing that God exists, however, does not remove all doubt. I have met many people who question God’s existence, from friends in philosophy classes at graduate school to concerned Christians who grew up going to church. It is one thing to have questions about God and experience doubt, but atheists go one step further and state that there is no God. Atheism, so I found, is almost always driven by psychological factors. It is usually not a rejection of God, but a rejection of “a God or a religion the atheist doesn’t like.” More often than not, atheism is a rejection of the oppressive religion held by someone close to the atheist, often the atheist’s father.
Rarely is there a hard core atheist who is not ultimately rejecting something that he or she relates to God or holds against God. Often there are good reasons for such a rejection, but the rejection goes too far. Rebellion against one form or another of oppression can be an over-reaction in the opposite direction. This atheist syndrome is described and illustrated from the lives of many famous intellectual people like Sigmund Freud, Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, and others in the book, The Atheist Syndrome.
It is easy to see how some do not believe in God because of those who represent God. But most would agree that, in the end, this is not a good basis for rejecting God and saying that he does not exist.
A second reason that causes many to doubt God’s existence is the moral expectation factor. Many of us wonder if there is more evidence than the intuitive conviction or deep-seated hunch we get from looking at the world. Many of us want more evidence because the stakes can be pretty high. After all, if we admit, in our heart of hearts, that there is a God, we know that there are moral implications for our lives. Many of us push God out of our consciousness so we can avoid giving up sin or so that we will not have to admit that what we have done is wrong.
The Bible teaches that many of us subconsciously move away from God in this way. We cling to practices and behaviors that we know are wrong and our knowledge of God becomes darkened. This is not just true for individuals, it can also be true for an entire culture. The Bible describes the ancient culture of first century Rome with these words:
Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. (Romans 1: 28-29)
The Bible teaches that when some cultures reject God, they easily develop a common mindset that is depraved or inclined to sinful behavior. This mindset can keep people away from Christians and Biblical truth.
In another place, the Bible describes the reason that many reject spiritual truth with these words. The words are strong, but they can be applied to many people. Some reject the truth about God because they do not want to have their sinful ways exposed.
“Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” (John 3:19-21)
This explains why each of us needs to weigh out the reasons that we believe in God or do not. One major struggle, if the Bible is true, may be the one within our own hearts. We want to be honest with our deepest motives.
Many of us need to see objective facts that confirm what we intuitively believe to be true. We believe God is real, but we need help with our doubts. Because God made the universe, the world, and everything in them, his creation should provide us with confirmation of his existence. We will look at the evidence which provides this confirmation over the next several days.
Who Started The Big Bang?
Many people do not realize that our intuitive conviction that God exists can also be shown to be objectively true. I grew up near the Rocky Mountains of Western Canada. As a teenager I would often spend weekends in the winter skiing. Sometimes I would look out over the mountains from a chair on the ski lift. The tall, snow capped mountains were ruggedly set against the backdrop of the light blue ski and filled with beautiful evergreen trees. The scenes were simply majestic. In such breath taking moments I would say to myself, “wow, God made this.” I could not imagine that such a world “just happened” by chance.
Most of us share these sentiments. We look at the world and ask, “where else could this have come from?” Something made this world. Our natural reaction is to say, “God made it.”
Many of us were taught that the universe is infinitely old. Yet science has now demonstrated that the universe also had a beginning. Astronomers and astrophysicists are now convinced that the universe — and all time, space, matter, and energy literally sprang into existence out of nothing. The universe began with the “Big Bang.” As the brilliant English scientist Stephen Hawking states, “almost everyone now believes that the universe, and time itself, had a beginning at the Big Bang.”
Before the “Big Bang” the universe and everything else did not exist. There was no time, no matter, no energy, and no space. Stop and think about this fact for one moment. The implications are astounding:
• There was no yesterday, no today and no tomorrow, no beginning, no end.
• There were no dimensions, no up, no down, no back, no front.
• There was no matter, no atoms, no elements of any kind.
• There was no energy, no power, no motion.
Absolutely nothing existed. Nothing! Then—out of nowhere—everything that exists sprang into existence. There was a “Big Bang” and everything that exists was created in that instant. As William Lane Craig says “Physical space and time were created in that event, as well as all the matter and energy in the universe.”
In every other realm, we know that “something” cannot come from “nothing.” So where did the universe come from? Think for a moment about the possible options! If all physical elements were created in the moment of the big bang, they could only have been created by something non-physical. There is only one good answer: God. Only a non-material being like God could create the physical universe. Only God is invisible, eternal, and all powerful. As the Bible says, “by faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” (Heb. 11:3).
Philosophers have developed a very simple summary of the “Big Bang” argument for God’s existence:
• Whatever Begins To Exist Had A Cause
• The Universe Began To Exist
• Therefore, The Universe Had A Cause (God)
The person who does not believe God is real is in trouble at this point. How can he or she explain the beginning of the universe? As Anthony Kenny of Oxford University puts it, “A proponent of the big bang theory, at least if he is an atheist, must believe that the . . . Universe came from nothing and by nothing.”
The Bible makes it clear that the creation of the universe is the work of God. In fact, the first verses of the Bible could not be clearer: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).
Life Springs Into Existence!
The creation of the universe sets the stage for the creation of life on planet earth. Scientists tell us that the simplest forms of life appeared on planet earth soon after it formed. Without God, there are no known explanations for the creation of biological life. Biologists and biochemists have tried to explain the origin of life in different naturalistic ways (without God), but the more we learn about biological life, the more we learn about the miracle that was required for it to have started. Stated differently, if we assume that there is no God, we are at a loss to explain how life started.
Students have been taught that life just happened on early earth. And scientists used think they could replicate the process in a laboratory. They have given up on such projects—they do not have a clue about how to create life from non-living materials. Harold Morowitz is a mathematical biologist who specializes in this field. He says that if you take all the possibilities or random combinations from the beginning of time until now, it is impossible to find a mathematical model that will explain the creation of life. He says that the random assembly of the most basic building blocks of life, including something as simple as a functional protein (Biological Self-Replicating Systems) is unexplainable.
There are various ways in which scientists try to describe the odds of the most simple blocks of life forming by chance (without God).
• The odds of the building blocks of life “just happening by chance” are the same as a Boeing 747 being created accidentally by a tornado whirling through a junkyard.
• The odds of the building blocks of life “just happening by chance” are the same as a man finding the same grain of sand after being blindfolded and randomly dropped in the Sahara Desert three different times.
• The odds of the building blocks of life “just happening by chance” are the same as believing that monkeys typing on computers could randomly create the entire 30 volume Encyclopedia Britannica without error.
The appearance of life on the planet is a miracle that points to God. There is a simple way to sum up this evidence as an argument for God’s existence.
• Biological life resulted either from chance or design.
• The odds that life began by chance are so small as to be equal to zero.
• Therefore life began by design (by God).
There is no known process on earth or in the universe as a whole that can explain the origin of life. The belief that God created life is the most logical explanation.
As more and more people start to grapple with the highly unlikely odds that biological life just sprang into existence on planet earth, they are turning to a new explanation. Being resistant to God, some are now postulating that biological life on planet earth originally came from outer space. The universe, so we have been told, is full of lots of planets that can support life. Frank Drake and Carl Sagan helped to popularize these views in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s and they have been expressed in well-known movies like Contact, Stargate, Star Trek, and Battle Star Galatica.
Most people do not realize that the views about extra terrestrial life expressed in these movies (and others like them) are based on the old science of the 1960s. In recent years scientists are being forced to conclude that planet earth is extremely unique. The more physicists and astrophysicists look at the universe, the more unlikely it is that – without God – there will be other possible places in the universe that can support biological life.
The evidence is very strong that planet earth – as a life supporting planet – is unique. The evidence is so compelling that scientists now referred to it as “The Anthropic Principle.” This principle states that planet earth appears to have been uniquely designed. Planet earth has a “just right design” making it appear to have been uniquely made to support human life.
Here are some of the things that must be “just right” for a planet to support life:
• The galaxy in which the planet exists must have a “just right” age
• There must be a “just right” distance Between Galaxies
• There must be a “just right” Galaxy
• There must be a “just right” location within the galaxy
• There must be a “just right” distance between stars (Sun)
• There must be a “just right” distance From Super Nova eruptions
• There must be a “just right” age of our sun
• There must be a “just right” distance of the planet from the sun
• There must be a “just right” position of the stars in a planetary system
• There must be a “just right” axis position on the planet
• There must be a “just right” rotation period on the planet
• There must be a “just right” thickness of planet’s Crust
• There must be a “just right” ozone Level on the planet
• There must be a “just right” gravitational influence from a moon
These are just a few of the parameters that must be “just right” for life to exist on earth. Hugh Ross, in conjunction with various physicists and astrophysicists, has worked out the probabilities that another life support planet or moon exists anywhere else in the universe. He writes that, “a calculation of the probability for there existing just one naturally occurring planet anywhere in the observable universe with the capacity to support physical life. . . Is less than 1 chance in 10 to the 174 (the number 1 followed by 174 zeroes).”
If we put this statistical probability in laymen’s terms, we would say that the odds of there being a life supporting planet or moon elsewhere in the universe are the same as one person winning the lottery a million times in a row.” Again, the odds of planet earth just happening by chance are almost indistinguishable from zero.
The Wonder of a Human Being’s Design
One of the greatest joys a woman experiences is giving birth to a baby. During my years of ministry, I find that after giving birth, many women tell me the same thing. They have intimately experienced conception, the earliest and more advanced movements of the baby and finally the birth. Most mothers feel that they have participated in a miracle. More women than I can count have said to me, “There is no way that you could have a baby and not believe in God.”
What is it in the experience of pregnancy and childbirth that makes so many women say such things? I am convinced that they say it because they have come into intimate contact with the incredible and unexplainable design of life. In the face of this miracle, they intuitively realize that the processes of human life could not just have evolved by chance. In the face of such experiences, most women cannot help but point to God.
There are two basic ways to explain the development of human life. Either we are the result of chance or we are the result of design (by God). The dominant means used in western society to explain the development of human beings still goes back to naturalistic evolution (evolution without God), the theory originally proposed by Charles Darwin. The theory can be summarized in the following manner:
• The universe and planet earth developed (as a suitable place for life) by the smallest possible mathematical chance.
• Then, over billions of years, biological life sprang into existence on earth by the smallest possible mathematical chance.
• Then, once life started, it evolved into more complex forms through numerous, successive, and slight modifications by the smallest possible mathematical chances.
Consequently, human life and all other advanced forms of biological life are the result of chance groupings of the smallest possible mathematical chances.
Most people do not know that each of these individual points is incredibly unlikely, the odds of each one being statistically equivalent to zero. Most people are also unaware that the fossil record does not support the theory of naturalistic evolution, as most, if not all, species (properly defined) just sprang up in the fossil record with no transitional forms. Those scientists, mathematicians, and thinkers who have looked at the evidence with an open mind, point out that evolutionary theory (when it does not depend on God) should now be put on trial and declared “invalid.”
The creation model, which holds that God guided the creation of all life forms, culminating in the special creation of Adam and Eve, is completely compatible with the fossil record and biological evidence. When the statistical odds of life just happening by chance are added to the picture, the view God made everything is highly sensible and scientific. The facts we are learning about both the physical and biological world are causing more and more scientists and mathematicians to believe in a personal God, a development that runs directly counter to what was predicted thirty or forty years ago. Naturalistic evolution and blind chance simply cannot explain what we observe in the universe and in this world.
We are now going to look closely at two examples of complex design within the human body that point to God. It is impossible to believe that these designs (and many others) just occurred by blind evolutionary chance.
1. The Complexity of Human Cells Require A Designer.
As recently as fifty years ago scientists naively believed that biological and human life could be explained by chance. Only with the discovery of the structure of DNA in 1953 did we come close to beginning to grasp the complexity of biological life, especially human life. Information on the DNA molecule is stored as millions of specifically arranged chemicals along the bases of the spine of DNA’s helical strands. Recently biochemists and mathematicians like Michael Behe have been at the forefront of scientific discussion, pointing out that naturalism and chance (theories which reject the possibility of God) cannot explain human cells.
Behe has pointed out that the cell is an “irreducibly complex system.” An “irreducibly complex system” is a system whose parts – if they were not designed – had to develop in all their complexity independent of one another, by chance; and then, again, by chance, they must “just happen” to work together. The mouse trap is a very simple example of an irreducibly complex system.
The mouse trap is a very simple example of fundamental and irreducible complexity which must be multiplied many, many times over for us to understand a simple human cell. A simple human cell can have thousands of component parts. If naturalistic evolution is true, all of the independent component parts must have uniquely evolved “by chance” and then have been positioned “by chance” so that “by chance” they work together. But it is practically impossible for a rational person to believe that this complexity could have just happened.
The more scientists learn about the human body, the more they are astounded at the wonder and complex design they find. Here are some of the things they are learning.
• A single human cell is so complex that it contains more information than an entire thirty volume encyclopedia.
• The cell’s ability to process information is move advanced than any known computer program.
• The cell has molecular motors which function just like complex motors that humans have designed. Many scientist are trying to learn how to design molecular motors by trying to imitate the ones in cells.
• The parts with a cell function just like a factory—producing products for the use of other cells.
All of these processes are at work in the billions of cells in your body, right now. And they all work together, seamlessly.
It is exceptionally difficult to believe that such things could have just been assembled “by chance.” Only God’s existence explains the design and work of the human cell. As King David wrote 3,000 years ago, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139: 13-14).
2. Reflect on The Human Eye – Doesn’t Its Design Require A Designer?
Most of us have not spent much time studying a human cell and we never will. But all of us have seen birds, insects, and common forms of biological life. Most of us do not realize the amount of “irreducible complexity” found in the organs (and cells) of these creatures (and remember, organs are made up of countless cells). One of the best ways to illustrate the design of a human being and the irreducible complexity of component parts of our design is with the human eye.
Now let’s consider what happens inside the eye. Look at the diagram below.
Next, notice the lens. It is in a “just right” place to adjust the image of light. Now notice the retina – it is “just right” to transport an upside-down image, which the brain interprets upside right for us. The vitreous humor is a clear, special liquid which gives “just right inflation” Then at the back of the eye are photo-receptor cells – 6.5 million light sensitive cones and 125 million rods, each wired to a central system and each sensitive to one photon which enables us to distinguish colors. The size of one photo-receptor cell is “two microns” – and the optical resolution of the human eye just happens to be “two microns.”
Now, to top it all off, we have two eyes. They are about three inches apart, which is a “just right” space so that we can judge distances. Isn’t it amazing that all of these component parts automatically work together!
It is simply beyond reason to believe that each of these complex parts evolved independently and came together “by chance!” The Bible says it well, when it states, “Ears that hear and eyes that see — the Lord has made them both” (Proverbs 20:12).
Is God Real?
What does the big bang tell us? Where did life on this planet come from? How can we explain the development of such biological complexity as that which is found in human cells and organs?
A little over two hundred years ago, William Paley presented the “Watch Maker Argument.” The argument began by looking at the complexity of life, as I have done, with the scientific knowledge of that time. Paley asked his readers to imagine that they have never been exposed to advanced society. You are walking through the forest and you come upon a watch on the ground! You have never seen anything like this before. You look at it and naturally think that it was put together for an distinct purpose:
• It has a spring to give it motion.
• It has a series of wheels to transmit this motion.
• The wheels are made of brass so that they do not rust.
• The spring is made of steel because it is a resilient metal.
• The front cover is made of glass so that you can see through it.
You will naturally conclude that someone designed this object and that it was designed to tell time. Who would conclude that such an item just happened or that it was created by chance?
In the same way, when we look at our world, we see that it shows an even greater evidence of design than the watch. Consider the following.
• A “fine-tuned” universe exploded into being when nothing existed.
• A “fine-tuned” planet uniquely ideal for sustaining life was formed.
• Incredibly complex life forms appear “out of nowhere” after the earth was formed.
• The most complex life form of all – humans – appear on earth, with complex organs and ask, “why am I here?”
It is hard to image how we can think that such design doesn’t point to God? The natural and logical conclusion – if a watch demands a watchmaker – is that humans demand a human-maker (God).
At the beginning of the chapter, I mentioned my friend Roberta’s confession about her doubts. That night began a process whereby she confronted her doubts and ended up admitting that she had always sensed that God was there. Roberta needed an environment where she could be honest about her doubts and ask questions. Who would have predicted that a group of hockey players and their wives would provide what she needed? She also needed to see the reasons that cause people to believe in God and become Christians.
Evidence (like that presented above) caused her to open up and started a process which eventually led her to embrace the belief that she had tried to repress all of her life. She is now a devout Christian.
The Bible indicates that, in a way, everybody is like Roberta. We all intuitively or innately know that God exists and that we are morally responsible to him. Evidence and sound reasoning help us to know that our intuitive inclination is based on a solid, objective foundation. This is why I tell people that I believe in God. I hope that you will be able to join me and say that you believe in him too.