*Series: Knowing What & Why You Believe – October 19, 2020 – Pastor David Craig
(Notes Adapted from Dr. William Lane Craig)
Does God exist? Here are 5 Good Reasons to Believe That God Exists:
- God makes sense of the origin of the universe.
- God makes sense of the fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life.
- God makes sense of objective moral values in the world.
- God makes sense of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
- God can be immediately known and experienced.
- C. S. Lewis once remarked that God is not the sort of thing one can be moderately interested in. If God does not exist, there’s no reason to be interested in God at all. On the other hand, if God does exist, then this is of uttermost importance.
3 Reasons Why God’s Existence Makes A Difference
Reason 1: Life is Ultimately Meaningless Without God
- If God does not exist, life is ultimately meaningless. If your life is doomed to end in death, then ultimately it does not matter how you live. In the end it makes no ultimate difference whether you existed or not. Your life might have a relative significance in that you influenced others or affected the course of history. But ultimately mankind is doomed to perish in the heat death of the universe. Ultimately it makes no difference who you are or what you do. Your life is inconsequential.
- Thus, the contributions of the scientist to the advance of human knowledge, the research of the doctor to alleviate pain and suffering, the efforts of the diplomat to secure peace in the world, the sacrifices of good people everywhere to better the lot of the human race—ultimately all these come to nothing. Thus, if atheism is true, life is ultimately meaningless.
Reason 2: Without God We Live Without Hope
- If God does not exist, then we must ultimately live without hope. If there is no God, then there is ultimately no hope for deliverance from the shortcomings of our finite existence. For example, there is no hope for deliverance from evil. Although many people ask how God could create a world involving so much evil, by far most of the suffering in the world is due to man’s own inhumanity to man. The horror of two world wars during the last century effectively destroyed the 19th century’s naive optimism about human progress. If God does not exist, then we are locked without hope in a world filled with gratuitous and unredeemed suffering, and there is no hope for deliverance from evil. If there is no God, there is no hope of deliverance from aging, disease, and death. Although it may be hard for you as who are younger to contemplate, the sober fact is that unless you die young, someday you—you yourself—will be an old man or an old woman, fighting a losing battle with aging, struggling against the inevitable advance of deterioration, disease, perhaps senility. And finally and inevitably you will die. There is no afterlife beyond the grave. Atheism is thus a philosophy without hope.
Reason 3: If God Exists, You Can Know His Love Personally
On the other hand, if God does exist, then not only is there meaning and hope, but there is also the possibility of coming to know God and His love personally. That the infinite God should love you and want to be your personal friend! This would be the highest status a human being could enjoy! Clearly, if God exists, it makes not only a tremendous difference for mankind in general, but it could make a life-changing difference for you as well.
Now admittedly none of this shows that God exists. But it does show that it makes a tremendous difference whether God exists. Therefore, even if the evidence for and against the existence of God were absolutely equal, the rational thing to do, I think, is to believe in Him. That is to say, it seems to me positively irrational when the evidence is equal to prefer death, futility, and despair over hope, meaningfulness and happiness.
5 GOOD REASONS TO BELIEVE THAT GOD EXISTS:
(1) GOD MAKES SENSE OF THE ORIGIN OF THE UNIVERSE
- Have you ever asked yourself where the universe came from? Why everything exists instead of just nothing? Typically atheists have said the universe is just eternal, and that’s all. But surely this is unreasonable. Just think about it for a minute. If the universe never had a beginning, that means that the number of past events in the history of the universe is infinite. But mathematicians recognize that the existence of an actually infinite number of things leads to self-contradictions.
- For example, what is infinity minus infinity? Well, mathematically, you get self-contradictory answers. This shows that infinity is just an idea in your mind, not something that exists in reality. David Hilbert, perhaps the greatest mathematician of the twentieth century, states, the infinite is nowhere to be found in reality. It neither exists in nature nor provides a legitimate basis for rational thought. The role that remains for the infinite to play is solely that of an idea (David Hilbert, “On the Infinite,” in Philosophy of Mathematics, ed. with an Introduction by Paul Benacerraf and Hillary Putnam [Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1964], pp. 139, 141).
- But that entails that since past events are not just ideas, but are real, the number of past events must be finite. Therefore, the series of past events can’t go back forever; rather the universe must have begun to exist. This conclusion has been confirmed by remarkable discoveries in astronomy and astrophysics.
- In one of the most startling developments of modern science, we now have pretty strong evidence that the universe is not eternal in the past but had an absolute beginning about 13.8 billion years ago in a cataclysmic event known as the Big Bang. What makes the Big Bang so startling is that it represents the origin of the universe from literally nothing. For all matter and energy, even physical space and time themselves, came into being at the Big Bang.
- As the physicist P. C. W. Davies explains, “the coming into being of the universe, as discussed in modern science . . . is not just a matter of imposing some sort of organization . . . upon a previous incoherent state, but literally the coming-into-being of all physical things from nothing” (ABC Science Online, “The Big Questions: In the Beginning,” Interview of Paul Davies by Philp Adams, http://aca.mq.edu.au/pdavies.html.).
- Of course, alternative theories have been crafted over the years to try to avoid this absolute beginning, but none of these theories has commended itself to the scientific community as more plausible than the Big Bang theory. In fact, in 2003 Arvind Borde, Alan Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin were able to prove that any universe which is, on average, in a state of cosmic expansion cannot be eternal in the past but must have an absolute beginning. Vilenkin pulls no punches:
- “It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning” (Alex Vilenkin, Many Words in One: The Search for Other Universes [New York: Hill and Wang, 2006], p. 176).
- That problem was nicely captured by Anthony Kenny of Oxford University. He writes, “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” (Anthony Kenny, The Five Ways: St. Thomas Aquinas’ Proofs of God’s Existence [New York: Schocken Books, 1969], p. 66).
- But surely that doesn’t make sense! Out of nothing, nothing comes. So why does the universe exist instead of just nothing? Where did it come from? There must have been a cause which brought the universe into being.
We can summarize our argument thus far as follows:
- Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
- The universe began to exist.
- Therefore, the universe has a cause.
- Given the truth of the two premises, the conclusion necessarily follows. From the very nature of the case, this cause must be an uncaused, changeless, timeless, and immaterial being which created the universe. It must be uncaused because we’ve seen that there cannot be an infinite regress of causes. It must be timeless and therefore changeless—at least without the universe—because it created time. Because it also created space, it must transcend space as well and be immaterial, not physical.
- It must also be personal. For how else could a timeless cause give rise to a temporal effect like the universe? If the cause were a mechanically operating set of necessary and sufficient conditions, then the cause could never exist without the effect.
- For example, the cause of water’s freezing is the temperature’s being below 0˚ Centigrade. If the temperature were below 0˚ from eternity past, then any water that was around would be frozen from eternity. It would be impossible for the water to begin to freeze just a finite time ago. So if the cause is permanently present, then the effect should be permanently present as well. The only way for the cause to be timeless and the effect to begin in time is for the cause to be a personal agent who freely chooses to create an effect in time without any prior determining conditions.
- For example, a man sitting from eternity could freely will to stand up. Thus, we are brought, not merely to a transcendent cause of the universe, but to its personal Creator.
- Isn’t it incredible that the big bang theory thus confirms what the Christian theist has always believed: that in the beginning God created the universe? Which makes more sense: that the Christian theist is right or that the universe popped into being uncaused out of nothing?
(2) GOD MAKES SENSE OF THE FINE-TUNING OF THE UNIVERSE
FOR INTELLIGENT LIFE.
- During the last 40 years or so, scientists have discovered that the existence of intelligent life depends upon a complex and delicate balance of initial conditions given in the Big Bang itself. Scientists once believed that whatever the initial conditions of the universe, eventually intelligent life might evolve. But we now know that our existence is balanced on a knife’s edge. The existence of intelligent life depends upon a conspiracy of initial conditions which must be fine-tuned to a degree that is literally incomprehensible and incalculable.
This fine-tuning is of two sorts:
First, when the laws of nature are expressed as mathematical equations, you find appearing in them certain constants, like the gravitational constant. These constants are not determined by the laws of nature. The laws of nature are consistent with a wide range of values for these constants.
Second, in addition to these constants there are certain arbitrary quantities which are just put in as initial conditions on which the laws of nature operate, for example, the amount of entropy or the balance between matter and anti-matter in the universe. Now all of these constants and quantities fall into an extraordinarily narrow range of life-permitting values. Were these constants or quantities to be altered by a hair’s breadth, the life-permitting balance would be destroyed and life would not exist.
- For example, the physicist P. C. W. Davies has calculated that a change in the strength of gravity or of the atomic weak force by only one part in 10100 would have prevented a life-permitting universe. The cosmological constant which drives the inflation of the universe and is responsible for the recently discovered acceleration of the universe’s expansion is inexplicably fine-tuned to around one part in 10120.
- Roger Penrose of Oxford University has calculated that the odds of the Big Bang’s low entropy condition existing by chance are on the order of one out of 10 10 (123). Penrose comments, “I cannot even recall seeing anything else in physics whose accuracy is known to approach, even remotely, a figure like one part in 1010 (123)” (Roger Penrose, “Time-Asymmetry and Quantum Gravity,” in Quantum Gravity 2, ed. C. J. Isham, R. Penrose, and D. W. Sciama [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981], p. 249). And it’s not just each constant or quantity which must be exquisitely finely-tuned; their ratios to one another must be also finely-tuned. So improbability is multiplied by improbability by improbability until our minds are reeling in incomprehensible numbers. Now there are three possibilities for explaining the presence of this remarkable fine-tuning of the universe: physical necessity, chance, or design.
- The first alternative holds that there is some unknown Theory of Everything (T.O.E.) which would explain the way the universe is. It had to be that way, and there was really no chance or little chance of the universe’s not being life-permitting.
- By contrast, the second alternative states that the fine-tuning is due entirely to chance. It’s just an accident that the universe is life-permitting, and we’re the lucky beneficiaries. The third alternative rejects both of these accounts in favor of an intelligent Mind behind the cosmos, who designed the universe to permit life.
Which of these alternatives is the most plausible?
- The first alternative seems extraordinarily implausible. There is just no physical reason why these constants and quantities should have the values they do. As Paul Davies states,
- “Even if the laws of physics were unique, it doesn’t follow that the physical universe itself is unique. . . . the laws of physics must be augmented by cosmic initial conditions. . . . There is nothing in present ideas about ‘laws of initial conditions’ remotely to suggest that their consistency with the laws of physics would imply uniqueness. Far from it. . . . . . . it seems, then, that the physical universe does not have to be the way it is: it could have been otherwise” (Paul Davies, The Mind of God [New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992], p. 169).
- For example, the most promising candidate for a T.O.E. to date, super-string theory or M-Theory, fails to predict uniquely our universe.
- In fact, string theory allows a “cosmic landscape” of around 10500 different universes governed by the present laws of nature, so that it does nothing to render the observed values of the constants and quantities physically necessary.
- So what about the second alternative, that the fine-tuning of the universe is due to chance?
- The problem with this alternative is that the odds against the universe’s being life-permitting are so incomprehensibly great that they cannot be reasonably faced. Even though there will be a huge number of life-permitting universes lying within the cosmic landscape, nevertheless the number of life-permitting worlds will be unfathomably tiny compared to the entire landscape, so that the existence of a life-permitting universe is fantastically improbable.
- Students or laymen who blithely assert, “It could have happened by chance!” simply have no conception of the fantastic precision of the fine-tuning requisite for life. They would never embrace such a hypothesis in any other area of their lives—for example, in order to explain how there came to be overnight a car in one’s driveway.
- Some people have tried to escape this problem by claiming that we really shouldn’t be surprised at the finely-tuned conditions of the universe, for if the universe were not fine-tuned, then we wouldn’t be here to be surprised about it!
- Given that we are here, we should expect the universe to be fine-tuned. But such reasoning is logically fallacious. We can show this by means of a parallel illustration. Imagine you’re traveling abroad and are arrested on trumped-up drug charges and dragged in front of a firing squad of 100 trained marksmen, all with rifles aimed at your heart, to be executed. You hear the command given: “Ready! Aim! Fire!” and you hear the deafening roar of the guns. And then you observe that you are still alive, that all of the 100 trained marksmen missed!
Now what would you conclude?
- “Well, I guess I really shouldn’t be surprised that they all missed. After all, if they hadn’t all missed, then I wouldn’t be here to be surprised about it! Given that I am here, I should expect them all to miss.” Of course not!
- You would immediately suspect that they all missed on purpose, that the whole thing was a set-up, engineered for some reason by someone. While you wouldn’t be surprised that you don’t observe that you are dead, you’d be very surprised, indeed, that you do observe that you are alive. In the same way, given the incredible improbability of the fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life, it is reasonable to conclude that this is not due to chance, but to design.
- In order to rescue the alternative of chance, its proponents have therefore been forced to adopt the hypothesis that there exists an infinite number of randomly ordered universes composing a sort of World Ensemble or multiverse of which our universe is but a part. Somewhere in this infinite World Ensemble finely-tuned universes will appear by chance alone, and we happen to be one such world.
There are, however, at least two major failings of the World Ensemble hypothesis:
First, there’s no evidence that such a World Ensemble exists. No one knows if there are other worlds. Moreover, recall that Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin proved that any universe in a state of continuous cosmic expansion cannot be infinite in the past. Their theorem applies to the multiverse, too. Therefore, since the past is finite, only a finite number of other worlds can have been generated by now, so that there’s no guarantee that a finely-tuned world will have appeared in the ensemble.
Second, if our universe is just a random member of an infinite World Ensemble, then it is overwhelmingly more probable that we should be observing a much different universe than what we in fact observe.
- Roger Penrose has calculated that it is inconceivably more probable that our solar system should suddenly form by the random collision of particles than that a finely-tuned universe should exist. (Penrose calls it “utter chicken feed” by comparison in The Road to Reality [New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005], pp. 762-5.) So if our universe were just a random member of a World Ensemble, it is inconceivably more probable that we should be observing a universe no larger than our solar system.
- Or again, if our universe were just a random member of a World Ensemble, then we ought to be observing highly extraordinary events, like horses’ popping into and out of existence by random collisions, or perpetual motion machines, since such things are vastly more probable than all of nature’s constants and quantities’ falling by chance into the virtually infinitesimal life-permitting range.
- Observable universes like those are much more plenteous in the World Ensemble than worlds like ours and, therefore, ought to be observed by us. Since we do not have such observations, that fact strongly disconfirms the multiverse hypothesis. On atheism, at least, it is therefore highly probable that there is no World Ensemble.
- So once again, the view that Christian theists have always held, that there is an intelligent designer of the universe, seems to make much more sense than the atheistic view that the universe just happens to be by chance fine-tuned to an incomprehensible precision for the existence of intelligent life.
We can summarize this second argument as follows:
- The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design.
- It is not due to physical necessity or chance.
- Therefore, it is due to design.
*You can subscribe to Valley Baptist Church San Rafael on YouTube to hear the Apologetics lectures from the series: Knowing What and Why You Believe, as well as Pastor David Craig’s sermons on the book of Daniel in the Series: Going Against the Flow of Culture.
Resources On Apologetics From Dr. William Lane Craig
Dr. William Lane Craig’s website: www.reasonablefaith.org
Cowan, Steven, and Stanley N. Gundry, eds. Five Views On Apologetics. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000. (W.L. Craig presents the case for the Classical View).
Craig, William Lane, and Joseph E. Gorra. A Reasonable Response: Answers To Tough Questions On God, Christianity, And The Bible. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2013.
Craig, William Lane. Does God Exist? Pine Mountain, GA: Impact 360 Institute, 2014.
Craig, William Lane, & Meister, Chad. God Is Great, God is Good: Why Believing in God is Reasonable and Responsible. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2009.
Craig, William Lane and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong,. God? A Debate Between A Christian And An Atheist. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.
_______. Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008.
_______. On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2010.
_______. The Son Rises: The Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus. Eugene, OR: Wipe and Stock Publishers, 2000.