Does God exist? Is our universe the result of a big bang? Or the intentional creation of God? Were we created by an intelligent being, put on this earth with a purpose, or are we just here randomly? These are difficult, yet important, questions.
But ultimately, these are questions that can’t be answered definitively. Each of us can only look at all of the available information and make our own best judgment. Don’t skip over that last sentence too quickly. I can understand the thinking of agnostics (someone who isn’t sure about the existence of God). But i don’t understand the atheistic position (true atheists, that say/believe there is no god, and will try to convince others of that). Have you really searched the entire universe, including dimensions we don’t even know about yet, and concluded with certainty that God doesn’t exist? Of course not. So then your position/belief must be that, based on information available to you, it is your best judgment that God doesn’t exist.
And while we are being honest (I’m a big fan of not making dogmatic and persuasive statements just to win an argument, but instead dealing in the currency of logical/rational thinking and openness), Christians and other religious people need to also acknowledge that our beliefs are our “best guess”, based on the information. It wouldn’t be called faith if it was 100% provable and knowable. We need to acknowledge this when we are discussing these matters with atheists, and recognize that the last step in believing in the Christian faith (after examining the evidence) is a leap. Like someone skydiving for the 1st time. They’ve checked all of the equipment carefully, read a lot of material on the procedures that lead to safety, and the safety statistics. But even though they conclude there is a very high probability of a safe descent, they still have to step out of that plane. They do not do so blindly, their decision is based on a lot of good information, but there is an element of faith that can’t be avoided. (And the exact same thing is true of the atheistic position.)
Christianity is like that. After looking at the information available, I’ve concluded that there are very good reasons to believe it, and I will summarize them in a moment. But there is 1 difference between choosing what religion or life philosophy you are going to believe in and the skydiving analogy: in the latter, you can choose not to take the chance at all, if you are not comfortable with a little risk. In your life you don’t have that choice, you have to choose something to believe in. If it is science, there are enough unanswered questions that it still requires faith. If it is nothing, you are believing that there is not a higher power that you are ignoring and will suffer the consequences for. So one way or another, you need to study the information, make your choice, and take the plunge.
I have heard people on both sides of the issue say (or clearly imply) that the people on the other side are idiots for believing what they do. I think if you honestly look at the facts, you’ll see that neither side has an iron-clad case, one that is so clear and obvious that it is ridiculous to believe anything else. So a little respect and humility is in order for all of us (acknowledging how much we don’t know), and will result in a much more productive, fruitful conversation. Instead of just trying to run the other side over with a bulldozer of categorical statements, let’s each calmly offer our points and be willing to listen and learn from each other.
Now that we have established a level playing field, let’s consider some points that convince me that the best guess is that Christianity is true. (And BTW, I welcome hearing reasons from those who disagree about why they believe what they do.)
- The Beginning: Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity and the resulting Big Bang Theory has been substantiated by several observable phenomenon: The expanding universe (see also a simpler article), cosmic microwave background (CMB) (see also a simpler article), ripples in CMB, and most recently, gravitational waves. These all point to the universe having some kind of beginning. But if that’s true (and most scientist agree that it is), what existed before the beginning? Where did the matter for our entire universe come from? What/who provided the energy for the huge, sudden, expansion/explosion? Purely scientific reasoning has no answers for these questions, short of pure speculation. So at this point in our discussion, religion and science are on the exact same footing: concerning what was before the big bang and what caused it, we only have speculation and blind faith. But we will see in the next point that the scales will be tipped toward religion.
- Creation: When the universe came into existence in that instant, it wasn’t a random, chaotic, mess of matter and energy. It burst onto the scene with an incredible set of physical laws and orderliness, all the way from makeup of the atom to the arrangement of the galaxies. Where did the laws of physics, chemistry, and thermodynamics come from? Scientists study them with a presupposition that they are orderly and consistent, but why? If it all came from something random, why do we see orderly laws that underpin it all? More than 30 physical constants must have the exact values they have in order for matter, the galaxies, and life itself to exist in any form remotely close to what we know. (See also the wikipedia discussion on this .) Without all of these constants being within the extremely small tolerances that they are, atoms and molecules would not exist, and all the planets and suns would either immediately fly apart or collapse back into itself. Stephen Hawking noted on page 64 of A Brief History of Time, “The laws of science, as we know them at present, contain many fundamental numbers, 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.” How are these constants perfectly balanced? Some scientists try the same explanation used for evolution and the existence of life: enough random chance finally hit upon the right balance. But as far as we know there is only 1 universe, that means 1 chance to get everything right. Some have proposed the multiverse theory: there are an infinite number of universes and we live in the one that succeeded. But again, we have absolutely no scientific proof for this theory, so it is pure speculation. You only go to this explanation if you want the answer to not be a Creator, and your “religion” is science. When I look at the incredible order in our universe, it looks to me like the most amazing design ever, and every year we discover more and more amazing things the further that impression. The Bible speaks to this: “For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made.” (Romans 1:20). And it goes on to say that people “worshiped and served the creation rather than the Creator.” I can understand this happening, because our universe is absolutely awe inspiring. Let’s just not forget to consider who might be behind it all. Because if there is someone who was able to create all of this, He is even more awe inspiring.
- The Apostles: why did they give their lives for a lie? The best information we have indicates that most of the apostles ended up dying for their faith in Jesus. Even though John didn’t die for his faith, he was exiled for it and he held to it all of his long life, writing the book of Revelation late in his life. If it was a conspiracy, why would they cling to the lie all of their lives and pay the ultimate price for it? It’s not like it was bringing them fame and fortune? Why don’t we have a record of at least one of them coming clean about the conspiracy?
- The Empty Tomb: why didn’t the Romans and Jews squash this movement by producing the body? They clearly didn’t like the message that Jesus rose from the dead and should be worshipped and followed. They could have killed the fledgling religion easily by producing the body. The only possible answer i can think of is that the disciples stole it, but it seems very unlikely to me that they could have overpowered the Roman and Jewish guards, and successfully hid the body from them forever.
- The Bible: the principles in the Bible are still true and still work, despite being written thousands of years ago. Despite the dramatic changes in culture, technology, etc., I still see the principles set forth in the Bible working in people’s lives today, more so than the other major religious books. Even surprising principles like love your enemies (Matthew 5:43-45) and if you want to be a leader be a servant of all (Mark 10:42-45) have done more to restore and maintain relationships between family members, friends, and spouses than anything else I’ve see. BTW, in case you look at some of the early books of the Bible and conclude that there are a lot of dumb laws in there, I caution you that you have to understand the overall structure of the Bible before coming to that conclusion: the Bible makes it clear that the old testament/covenant was basically a huge lesson about why legalism doesn’t work, and pointed to a better way, the new testament/covenant. If you just point to some verses in Leviticus and say “that’s ridiculous” (I’ve heard many say that), you have missed the point, and in fact you are validating the message of the Bible, that there needed to be a better way than that.
- Salvation By Grace, Not Works: a plan no human would come up with, and in fact no other major religion has: the message that sin matters a great deal, but we aren’t able to just try harder and be perfect, even though we might want to be. We need God to sacrifice to pay for our sin and give us His Spirit to empower us to live righteously.
- Evil: people ask “how could there be a God when there is so much evil in the world?”. But my question to you is: why do you assume that God thinks like you do? A real God wouldn’t be completely understandable by us. God isn’t just a human w/o a body. The being that created the universe, and you, is so beyond our understanding, we can’t even imagine most of him. Why do we always try to use logic about what God is and isn’t like? Like a 1 year old crying and concluding his parents don’t love him because they let the nurse give him a shot and it hurt. He has no way of comprehending the organisms within that serum and how they will interact with the complex mechanisms in his body to make him healthier. From the Bible I have some thoughts about why God has allowed evil, but I’ll leave that for another day. But while we are on this topic, just the fact that you are asking why there is evil is another indication there is a God. If we are all just products of chemicals randomly coming together, why is there an understanding of evil? That requires a moral basis, which requires a God. Chemicals have no right and wrong.
- Incarnation: the only way a true God could communicate truth to humans is through the living word. “Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw his glory – the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father.” John 1:14. Entomologists have learned a lot about how ants communicate with each other. What would be the most effective way for you to communicate with an ant colony? Probably becoming one yourself.
- Changed Lives: I’ve seen a lot of lives changed by the truth of Christianity. While I know this can be subjective and you could say they were changed by the delusion of hope, I’ve seen a lot of people changed radically and permanently. It appears to be more than what a delusion could accomplish. Both my own experience and my observation of others seems to support Paul’s statement “So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away – look, what is new has come!” II Corinthians 5:17. While this alone is certainly not proof that Christianity is true, combined with all of the other reasons, it makes an extremely compelling case to me.
Why isn’t there absolute proof? You might make the point that if there is a God, wouldn’t He give people undeniable proof that He exists and that His instructions (for example, the Bible) are directly from Him? I’ve often wondered this too. Let me 1st refer you to one of the previous points that a god we can fully understand is no god at all. But secondly, there seems to be evidence in the Bible that this was intentional on God’s part. Hebrews 11:1-2 says “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see. For by it the people of old received God’s commendation.” There are many examples in the Bible in which it appears that God wanted people to choose whether they were going to trust Him or trust themselves, whether they were going to choose His good ways or choose destructive ways. Say you wanted to gather some people together for a commune you were going to start that you hoped would be a sort of utopia of people living together in perfect harmony. Would you bring people in at gunpoint, giving them no choice but to join you? Or would you want people there that wanted to be there, that wanted the same thing that you do? This is not a perfect analogy, but if God completely revealed to us every ounce of evidence, we would have no choice but to choose Him, whether we wanted to or not.
I don’t expect you to be convinced about God, Jesus, or Christianity by my clever arguments, because intellectual agreement is only 1 ingredient in believing in Christianity. The other necessary ingredient is your will. You must be willing to submit to the God of the Bible. For many, this is a bigger hurdle than the intellectual debate. And this almost always won’t come until you see the love, compassion, joy, and peace of true followers of Christ. Until you have felt the sincere love of Christians, and have seen that this belief system really works, you probably won’t be willing to give your life to it.
And I don’t blame you. It sickens me that there are so many “Christians” that are judgmental instead of loving, and constantly worried instead of trusting God. In some cases this is because some Christians are pretty ignorant about what the Bible really says about what God is like. In other cases, it is because we are struggling with our sinful tendencies, and still learning how to walk in God’s ways. But I also know many Christians who are good examples of how God’s ways work. Please watch these people, and don’t let the others keep you away from a great judgment about truth.