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"The BIG Questions”
Part 1:

"How Can We Know There's a God?”
Based on Psalm 19:1-6
Delivered on February 20 & 21, 2010
by David J. Claassen
Copyright 2010 by David J. Claassen

For centuries people have asked certain questions about religion, faith, and God. We're going to tackle some of these big questions in this seven-part series of messages. We'll deal with such questions as “Don't science and the Bible contradict each other?”, “How can God allow suffering and hell?”, How can we take the Bible literally?”, “Who can say what's right or wrong?”, “Is there one true religion?”, and “Did Jesus rise from the dead?”

We begin with what has to be the most basic question of all. How this question is answered determines whether we need to bother answering the other questions. The question: How can we know there's a God?

Dealing with Doubts

I remember taking what I call a prayer walk, because that’s what I was doing as I walked. I don't know what I had said up to the point that I vividly remember. It’s that vivid memory that I want to share with you. I said something to this effect to God: “Are You really there, or am I talking to myself?”

I've had to ask myself whether I believe in God simply because my parents did and that's the way they raised me. I don't want to believe something just because I was taught to believe it. What if my parents had been atheists? Would I now be an atheist, too?

Do I believe in God because such a belief makes life more bearable? If God doesn't really exist, I'd rather accept that fact with courage and face life as it really is, like many true atheists have done.

Do I believe in God because I make a living convincing others to believe, and to not believe would mess up my life as I now know it? Will I believe in the moments before I die, believing what I have for decades spoken and written about God, and going to be with Him in His heaven?

The great evangelist Billy Graham, who’s in his 90’s, was asked not too long ago if he believed that after he dies he’ll hear God say to him, “Well done, my good and faithful servant . . .” He answered, “I hope so.”

Here’s the simple truth: we can't know for a fact that God exists! It takes faith. If you know something for a fact, there's really no room for faith. Faith is built on what you don't know for sure, something that’s not a fact. Even the Bible states this point: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1) In fact (pun intended) faith is often best built on doubt!

Therefore, we aren’t going to be able to “prove” the existence of God. The existence of God isn’t an irrefutable fact; believing it requires some measure of faith.

Just because God's existence isn’t an undeniable fact (many do deny His existence, and many of us have had our own doubts) doesn’t mean that the question of His existence should remain unanswered. Nothing is more important to decide! If God exists, all of life should be organized around Him. If He doesn't exist, prayer, church, and religion in general are a waste of our time and effort.

Some people try to live their lives without coming to a firm conviction of what they believe. It's argued that because we can't know for certain, no decision can be made. Author John Ortberg wrote about this subject, stating, “Sometimes I have to choose between two options even when I can't prove either one.” (Know Doubt, p.29)

Not deciding about something is deciding! Deciding to make no decision is a decision! In reality, people who decide that they can't decide whether they believe God exists usually end up living as if He doesn't exist. Ortberg wrote, “Perhaps great believers and great doubters are more like each other than either group is like the great mass of relatively disinterested middle-grounders. . . . Both agree that this is, after all, the great question.” (p.23)

The question of whether God exists or not is the key question when considering the origin of the universe and the origin of life. Did the universe and life just happen, or were they created?

Considering the Origin of the Universe

Where did everything come from? Until the twentieth century most scientists believed that the universe has always been. Evidence now seems to indicate that the universe had a beginning in what has been called The Big Bang. According to the prevailing view, everything in the universe exploded out of an infinitesimally small spot in a “singularity” nearly 14 billion years ago. Scientists are not clear on how or why this happened.

Everything in the known universe operates by cause and effect. Every effect has a cause. If I walk into what I think is an empty house and observe a rocking chair still rocking, I look for a cause. Is someone in the house? Is there a cat or dog around that just jumped down from the rocker? Is there a window open that allows a breeze to rock the chair? Something has to have rocked the chair! No one could come to the conclusion that nothing caused the chair to rock, that it did it all by itself.

Some people have argued that the Big Bang was the result of a previous universe having collapsed on itself and that it, in a sense, bounced back into existence as The Big Bang. Others postulate parallel universes and that somehow our universe came into being because of that scenario. All that these theories do is push back the inevitable question of how whatever is here got here. You just push back the ultimate question; you don't make it go away. Something had to be the cause of its all being here.

The idea of an eternal universe, or at least the eternal nature of some kind of mass or energy, also makes no logical sense. If the universe, in some form, goes back infinitely in time, where we are at this point in time would never arrive! If there’s an infinite past of creation, we would never have gotten to the here and now!

Nothing makes more sense than to postulate, hypothesize, and believe that something outside of space and time made space and time. It seems very probable that the great cause of the amazing effect we call the universe exists outside, and beyond, what was made. Author R. C. Sproul stated, “Being eternal God is not an effect. Since He is not an effect He does not require a cause. He is uncaused.” (Know Why You Believe, Paul Little, p. 23) It’s not surprising, then, that the very first words of the Bible state “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)

If God created space and time but exists beyond it, we shouldn’t be surprised that He can’t be detected or measured using any method by which we measure space or time or anything else. The writer of Hebrews in the Bible put it well: “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.” (Hebrews 11:3)

It may not be a provable fact that God created everything, but it is a plausible view. In fact, it could be argued that it takes less faith to believe that God made it all than to believe that it has always been here or that it came into existence on its own!

The psalmist David proclaimed, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.” (Psalm 19:1-2)

Considering the Origin of Life

Either life happened by chance, or it was created. Those are the two options. Before science discovered how complex even simple life is, it seemed believable, at least to some people, that just the right combination of chemicals, coming together in some type of primordial soup in a swamp in the distant past, created the first cell of life. Thanks to science, we now know how complex even the simplest cell is!

A cell is made of amino acids, and there are about 80 types of them. Only twenty are found in living organisms. Approximately a hundred amino acids have to come together in just the right way to make a single protein molecule. Then about two hundred protein molecules have to come together in just the right way to produce a cell. What brings them together in just the right way — the instructions and information for doing that — is in the DNA. Every cell has a DNA molecule the directs the proper sequence of the proteins to make the cell.

Scientists are still unpacking the amazing characteristics of DNA. A single DNA molecule contains enough information to fill a million encyclopedia-sized pages! Even the 23-volume Encyclopedia Britannica has only 25,000 pages. A DNA molecule is an amazing self-duplicating storage and retrieval information system.

Information doesn’t simply happen or evolve on its own; it has to come from an intelligent source. In fact, Francis Crick, the co-discoverer of DNA, was a code-breaker in World War II. He proposed that the four chemicals in DNA are like letters in a written text or digital characters of computer code.

Where did this complex miniaturized piece of information that forms the instructions for how a cell is to be made come from? Information implies an intelligent creator of that information!

If you're hiking in the woods and see a heart carved in a tree with the phrase in it “Bob loves Mary,” you know that someone carved it. Wind and rain didn’t create it by chance. Even in that simple series of 14 letters and spaces inside a curved line that looks like a heart, you know there’s no way it happens to be there by an accident of nature. Interestingly, Francis Crick said, “Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved.” Sometimes you have to work hard so that you don't see the obvious! It's a lot easier to have faith, to believe that complex information such as is found in DNA was put there by Someone, than it is to believe that it just happened to come together and make sense.

Often, DNA models use four letters to symbolize this code. Letters form words. I can't help but think how John began his gospel in our Bibles: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, . . .” (John 1:1-4a)

The belief that life started because of random chance over a long time is like believing that given enough time, a large group of monkeys pounding away on typewriters could produce a set of encyclopedias. It has been pointed out that even if a monkey accidentally typed a whole word, the chance of typing two words in a row would be very small, let alone typing a third word. Each time the monkey would type a wrong letter he'd have to start over. It's absurd to believe that he could type even a paragraph that made perfect sense, let alone pages of material that would fit in with what the other monkeys were typing. Giving a bad theory lots of time doesn’t make it a good theory!

The origin of the universe and the origin of life have only one explanation that’s the most believable. That explanation is that God has created it all! Dr. Timothy Johnson, medical expert for ABC-TV, wrote a book called Finding God in the Questions. In it he concluded, “I believe that the vastness and complexity of our inner and outer universes argue against chance as a total explanation for the universe as we know it today. Quite the contrary, the more we learn, the less likely it seems that it could all have “just happened.” (p.41)

Is it a fact that God exists? There's not enough evidence to compel belief, which would turn belief into fact and remove the need for faith. No, there isn’t enough evidence for God's existence to compel belief, but there is enough evidence to make belief compelling! It isn’t fact; it requires faith — and that’s as it should be. Again, the writer of Hebrews: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

Do I know for a fact that God exists? No, not for a fact, but I believe that He does. I really do! I’ve chosen to believe. Here's the most important two-word question you could ever be asked: “You, too?”

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