Much of this chapter was adapted from my book Empowered Personal Evangelism, Chapter 2
Question: Is it not reasonable to suggest that the existence of hunger in your life presupposes the existence of something that will satisfy your hunger; that is, food?
Around the world there are millions of people today who are spiritually hungry and searching for God. So, is it not also reasonable to suggest that the existence of spiritual hunger presupposes the existence of God, who satisfies our spiritual hunger?
Of course, we can presuppose as much as we like but how can we know God exists?
Let me begin by stating that many people think that science and Christianity are at odds with one another and that they contradict each other but I find the opposite to be true; I find that they complement each other. In the final analysis, science only ever seeks to answer the question, ‘How?’ but Christianity never attempts to answer that question: Christianity seeks to answer the question ‘Who’ not ‘How?’ Similarly, many people ask the question: ‘How can I know there is a God?’ and they may even turn to the Bible for answers, but the Bible never tries to prove that God exists, it simply assumes it, and from the very beginning. Indeed, the very first sentence of the Bible opens with the words: ‘In the beginning God…’ – assuming the existence of God from the very outset. But I want to put the Bible and historical events to one side, for the moment (I will discuss these at length later), and say that there is a great deal of other evidence or proof for God’s existence… proof, that is, for those who have eyes to see it and can accept it as such. In answer to the question, ‘How can I know there is a God’, I am going to argue that there is good, reliable and overwhelming evidence to prove that God exists. To help me do that I am going to share some facts with you, under three headings – each pointing to the fact that God not only exists, but also that we can know Him personally.
Evidence No.1: The Argument from Creation.
I read a quote recently, from Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, which said, ‘Atheists affirm that there is no God. Yet they cannot hold this position dogmatically. For us to be able to make this type of statement with authority, we would have to know the universe in its entirety and to possess all knowledge. If anyone had these credentials, then, by definition, they would be God.’ Good point! G. K. Chesterton put it a different way, he said: ‘If there were no God there would be no atheists.’
Some people think that we all came from an amoeba. The problem is they can’t tell us where the amoeba came from! The Bible says, ‘God created man in His own image… male and female He created them’ (Genesis 1:27).
Some people say that the earth came into existence as a result of the ‘big bang’ theory. Yet if you told them, ‘The car you drive right now was the result of an explosion at an assembly plant in Swindon,’ they would question your sanity. If there’s a design, there must be a designer. If there’s a creation, there must be a Creator. Citation
In the 2011 census for England and Wales 59% of the population claimed to believe in God and put down on their census form that they were Christian! Many other people believe in the Big Bang Theory (theory meaning hypothesis, idea, speculation… not fact!) But if it’s true and the universe did start with a ‘Big Bang’ then what made the ‘Big Bang’ happen? God? It really is ridiculous to suggest that the entire universe just popped into existence for absolutely no reason at all and purely by chance or accident! (That’s what I call blind faith!) Consider the following analogy, which I think makes the point well, rather well.
Three men are walking across a vast open desert when they come across a magnificent city in the middle of nowhere in particular, (the Earth in our universe). And the three men marvel in amazement as they wander around and discover that the city is truly astonishing and wonderfully intricate in its design: everything is so perfectly balanced, right the way down to the tiniest microscopic detail; everything is so beautiful and fits so flawlessly together.
And so the three men come to ponder and debate upon how this magnificent and amazing city came to be. The first man concluded that he didn’t really care! It just is, and why do we even feel the need to question how it came to be anyway? ‘Who cares… let’s just enjoy it while we can!’
The second man thought this answer wholly inadequate. He concluded that somehow cosmic forces of time and nature over probably billions of years must have somehow fused together and somehow caused a Big Bang, which then somehow produced energy and primitive life forms, all of which must have then somehow evolved to bring into being the magnificent city that we see before us today! Basically, he concluded that it came about somehow by chance, being the result of countless zillion, trillion, billion, millions of tiny random accidents over eons of time!
But the third man thought this answer also wholly inadequate. Instead he surmised that the sheer beauty, the intricate design and perfect balance; and the way everything works and fits so perfectly together is evidence or proof of a Creator; of divine intelligence: God created the city.
Tony Holland, Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Salford, was a scientific humanist up to the age of thirty. Then he was challenged by the question, ‘Is there a God?’ He concluded: ‘On consideration, it was inconceivable to me that the complex system of which we are apart could have occurred without a creator. Just as a great symphony testifies to the skill of the composer, the world and the universe testify to the wisdom and power of God. Science is but a description of God’s work.’ Citation
Dr Wernher von Braun was the first director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Centre and was known as the ‘father of the American space programme.’ In a letter written to the California state Board of Education in 1972 Braun stated:
‘One cannot be exposed to the law and order of the universe without concluding that there must be a design and purpose behind it all (…) The better we understand the intricacies of the universe and all its harbours, the more reason we have found to marvel at the inherent design upon which it is based. (…) To be forced to believe only one conclusion – that everything in the universe happened by chance – would violate the very objectivity of science itself. Certainly there are those who argue that the universe evolved out of a random process, but what random process could produce the brains of a man or the system of the human eye? Some people say that science has been unable to prove the existence of a Designer. (…) They challenge science to prove the existence of God. But must we really light a candle to see the sun? Many men who are intelligent and of good faith say they cannot visualise a Designer. Well, can a physicist visualise an electron? (…) What strange rationale makes some physicists accept the inconceivable electron as real, while refusing to accept the reality of a Designer on the grounds that they cannot conceive him?’
Russian cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space. He reportedly said from orbit: ‘I don’t see any God up here.’ Someone later pointed out that he would have done if he’d opened the hatch!
Professor Edwin Conklin, biologist at Princeton University, made this statement: ‘The probability of life originating from accident is comparable to the probability of an Unabridged Dictionary resulting from an explosion in a printing factory.’ Citation
And Isaac Newton, the eminent 17th-century English physicist and mathematician famous for discovering the law of gravity, said, ‘In the absence of any other proof, the thumb alone would convince me of God’s existence.’
On one occasion, to assist him in his studies Newton constructed a model of the solar system which he placed in his office. Sometime later a friend and fellow scientist, who was an atheist, visited Newton and he marvelled at the model and asked who made it. ‘Nobody!’ replied Newton. When his friend objected and charged him with being ridiculous, Newton asked him, ‘If you accept that a model needs a maker, why do you have a problem when confronted with the actual universe?’
As I said earlier, the Bible never tries to prove that God exists, it just assumes it. The opening sentence of the Bible, in full, reads: ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’
I have been checking out some facts… The heavens or this vast galaxy that we live in, is spinning at the incredible speed of 490,000 miles an hour (136 miles a second), and yet, even at this breakneck speed, our galaxy still needs 200 million years to make one rotation. It’s also been estimated that there are over one billion other galaxies just like ours in the universe, and some scientists say that the number of stars in creation is equal to all the grains of sand on all the beaches of the world! And yet, this complex sea of spinning stars functions with remarkable order and efficiency, so much so, that today, with human technological advancement, we can now send a man to the moon and predict with pin-point accuracy the exact time and place of his landing. All of these scientific facts support the biblical truth that order and creation are by design, and not somehow by chance or accident! Citation
The Old Testament prophet Isaiah wrote: ‘Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing’ (Isaiah 40:6). And the psalmist wrote: ‘The earth is the LORD’S and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters’ (Psalm 24:1–2). God created the world and everything in it: He is the Founder and Sustainer who holds all things together.
For example, and back to some of my facts, the sun’s temperature is approximately 6000 degrees Celsius, and we live 93 million miles away from the sun – just the right distance. If the earth’s temperature were even 50 degrees hotter or colder, all life would cease. Why was the earth not fixed in place twice as far away or twice as near? Well, because God knew what he was doing. The earth rotates 365 times a year as we pass around the sun. What would happen if we only rotated 36 times instead? Well, then our days and nights would be 10 times as long; we’d be terribly hot on one side of the earth and terrible cold on the other! Oxygen makes up about 21% of our atmosphere; just the right amount. Why not 50%? Well, if it were 50% the first time someone lit a match we’d all be toast! – It’s 21% by design, not by accident or chance! Citation
The world and the universe are evidence pointing to God’s existence. In St Paul’s letter to the church in Rome he wrote, ‘Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen’ (Romans 1:20). Paul says that all of creation is a signpost pointing clearly to God who made it.
The second pointer to prove the existence of God is the fact of our morality, values and conscience:
Evidence No.2: The Argument From Human Life And Personality.
A philosopher once voiced this opinion about the life of man. ‘Man is Nothing; but fat enough for seven bars of soap, iron enough for one medium sized nail, sugar enough to fill seven cups of tea, lime enough to whitewash one chicken coop, phosphorous enough to tip 2200 matches, magnesium enough for one dose of salts, potash enough to explode one toy crane, and sulphur enough to rid one dog of fleas!’
Now, surely there must be more to life than this! Are we simply nothing more than a piece of protoplasm; a complex mix of chemicals, minerals and compounds; a chance coming together of raw inorganic matter?
Consider for a moment that a Grand Piano made by skilful hands has 240 strings on which beautiful melodies can be played. The tiny human ear, in comparison, has the equivalent of 24,000 strings, which enable us to hear those melodies. Consider that a closed circuit television camera has some 60,000 electrical photographic components, which pick up images and enable the camera to ‘view’ the surrounding area. In contrast, the human eye has over 137 million similar elements. Likewise, a personal computer has several hundred feet of wiring and the capacity to store several billion pieces of information. A man’s brain, on the other hand, is infinitely more powerful. In fact, it has been suggested that the capacity for our brain to process and store information is, literally, unlimited. – I once heard an Oxford professor on the television say that if you unravelled a man’s brain cells and placed them end to end, there would be enough to go around the world twenty five times! – There is no question about it, Man is a remarkably complex design and a wonderful creation as, indeed, are all of God’s creatures… but Man is different from every other creature; mankind is uniquely distinct; special. Why? Citation
The Bible tells us that God created man is his own image… male and female he created them. We are special because we are made in the image and likeness of God, who created mankind to have dominion and to take care of the earth – with God, but under God’s direction. And because we are made in God’s image we have been endowed with a personality and character and freewill, the ability to choose for ourselves. But we chose wrong; we chose to ignore God and to do things our own way, and we messed up… that’s the problem – what the Bible calls sin – that separates us from God! But, coming back to our evidence: if we are simply the product of evolution, a chance coming together of raw inorganic matter, how can we ever explain our personality? Can a river run higher than its original source? No, (not unless it is manipulated by human engineering). Then how do we account for human personality? It is impossible for a river to run higher than its original source, and it is also impossible for inorganic matter to evolve into rational, thinking, calculating, emotional human beings with individual character and personality. The fact is our personality points to God, who made us in His image.
Why do we feel generosity and gratitude when things go well; why do we feel the need to share and thank someone? On the other hand, why, in a crisis or when things go wrong, do we feel the need to pray or to cry out for help? Why do we claim ‘it’s not fair’? Where does our concept of right and wrong come from, or our concept of fairness? If we are simply a product of chance, evolution or survival of the fittest, why then do we even care about morality and fairness? Where does our sense of justice come from? Our moral understanding, our values and sense of right and wrong all point to the existence of God, as does our conscience. Our conscience is an indicator to the existence of God if ever there was one!
Conscience is our God-given homing device, acting like a built-in moral code or inner-law within each and every one of us. Conscience is like an inner-judge who approves when we act and do what is right and disapproves when we act and do what is wrong (cf. Romans 2:15). Conscience has been described as a window that lets the light in: ‘God’s law or rule is the light, and the cleaner the window is the more light shines in. But if the window gets dirty and isn’t cleaned properly, then the light grows dimmer until finally the light is shut out altogether and it becomes utter darkness. Our conscience instinctively makes judgments, sometimes acquitting us (we have a clear conscience) sometimes condemning us (we feel guilty). And this presence of an inner-law suggests that there must be a Lawgiver.
Our conscience is a clear pointer to a God who is so concerned with right and wrong that He placed a homing device and a moral indicator inside each and every one of us.’
I wonder if you have ever watched The Simpsons on the television. In one episode Homer Simpson says, ‘Dear Lord, the gods have been good to me. As an offering, I present these milk and cookies. If you wish me to eat them instead, please give me no sign whatsoever.’ (Then there’s a brief pause.) ‘Thy biding will be done,’ says Homer and then he promptly scoffs the lot! Citation
Homer Simpson thinks that God is absent, silent, impotent maybe… but that is definitely not the experience of millions and millions of Christians around the world.
Let me tell you about John Newton who was born in London nearly 300 years ago. His father was the commander of a merchant ship and as a boy John went to sea with him often. By the age of nineteen he had joined the navy but in the course of time he left and went on to captain his own ship, which he then plied exclusively in the slave trade.
On March 10th, 1748, whilst on a return journey from Africa with his ship fully laden with hundreds of slaves, Newton almost lost everything, including his own life. His ship was caught up in a violent storm and in a desperate bid to save himself, his ship, his cargo and his crew, Newton cried out to God to have mercy on him. God answered his prayers: The storm miraculously broke; everything was saved and the incredible events of that day changed John Newton’s life forever.
As a direct result of this experience, Newton gave up his life as a slave-trader and, instead, he dedicated his life to serving God. He went on to become an ordained minister in the Church of England and he also became very close friends with John Wesley (founder of the Methodist church) and also William Wilberforce, the man who went on to lead the campaign for the abolition of slavery. John Newton, the once notorious slave trader turned Christian minister, dedicated the rest of his life to serving God and to serving others. He also wrote many wonderful hymns, one of the most famous of which is this one: ‘Amazing grace, how sweet the sound: That saved a wretch like me; I once was lost, but now am found; Was blind, but now I see.’
The words of this hymn capture something of the experience of millions and millions of Christians around the world: people who were once spiritually blind, but who now see who Jesus is. And this leads us to our third pointer and the most powerful argument to prove the reality of God’s existence…
Evidence No.3: The Fact of Jesus Christ.
The best and most conclusive way to discover if God really exists is to look at the time when God himself is said to have come to earth as a man, in the person of Jesus Christ, because then we have something tangible and concrete to investigate. The question we need to ask (and answer) is did Jesus Christ actually exist? If he did – and when you look at the historical and factual evidence you will know that he did – then you will also know that God exists.
Let’s look at some of the evidence but first…
Let me tell you the story about the man who lost his footing and fell over the edge of a cliff. As he slipped over the side he managed to grab hold of the root a tree. Filled with panic, he called out, ‘Help! Is there anyone up there?’
A powerful voice came from out of the sky, ‘Yes, what do you want?’
The man pleaded, ‘I fell over the cliff and am holding on to a branch for dear life. Please can you help me?’
The voice from above said, ‘Do you have faith and believe in God?’
And the man replied, ‘Yes, I have faith and I believe in God.’
The voice said, ‘Then, let go of the branch and I will catch you!’
There was an anxious pause, and then the man yelled out, ‘Is there anyone else up there?’
The point is, it’s one thing looking at the evidence with people to help them find answers; it is another for them to come to trust in those answers. That takes faith, and faith is a gift that only God can give (cf. Ephesians 2:8). Our part is simply to be faithful in pointing people towards Jesus.
All four Gospel writers were absolutely convinced that Jesus was God’s unique Son – so convinced they were willing to die to uphold that conviction. Mark opened his Gospel with the words: ‘The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God’ (Mark 1:1). And he concluded with the words of the Roman centurion at Jesus’ crucifixion saying, ‘Surely this man was the Son of God’ (Mark 15:39). All of the apostles, including Paul and all the other New Testament writers were all of them equally convinced. Indeed, the New Testament is full of first hand witness statements, testimonies and eyewitness accounts about Jesus. As Michael Green pointed out: ‘Jesus’ contemporaries… came to the unshakable conclusion that he was the visible expression of the invisible God. His character, his teaching, his influence, his claims, his death, his resurrection all support that conviction. God, for who there are so many pointers [came to be with us so that we might come back to being with Him]!’ Citation
But it’s not just the writings of the Bible that attest to the fact that Jesus existed. As author and evangelist John Chapman pointed out: ‘Josephus, a Jewish historian (and not a Christian), gives us further information in two of his literary works – Antiquities of the Jews (AD 93) and Jewish Wars (AD 75). In these works, we meet many of the people mentioned in the New Testament: Pilate, Annas, Caiaphas, Herod and others. Josephus tells us about John the Baptist as well as Jesus. He tells us that Jesus was a ‘doer of marvellous deeds, a teacher of men who received truth with pleasure. He won over many Jews and also many Greeks.’ He goes on to speak of Jesus’ death and resurrection and of the group called Christians who came into existence because of him. Citation
When people investigate the person of Jesus they come to realise that the one thing that cannot be said about Him, is that Jesus was just another religious leader or a good moral teacher. He never meant to leave that option open to us. C. S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity:
‘I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things that Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.’ Citation
The fact is Jesus made many unique claims. Here are just a few of them taken from John’s gospel:
I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty (6:35).
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever (6:51).
I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life (8:12).
I am from above… I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be (8:23-24).
I am the gate for the sheep. (10:7)… whoever enters through me will be saved (10:9).
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (10:11).
I am God’s Son (10:36).
I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die (11:25).
I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (14:6).
Jesus, not only made unique claims, He also lived a unique life: a perfect life without sin and in full obedience to God. He taught with divine authority and amazed people with miraculous signs and wonders. Again, the New Testament is full of eyewitness accounts and testimonies of the disciples who witnessed Jesus perform wonderful miracles: miracles of physical healing, from curing a fever, to leprosy, to the lame being able to walk and people who were blind being given back their sight. They saw miracles of spiritual healing, with all sorts of demons and evil spirits being cast out. Miracles over nature, such as turning water into wine, the feeding of thousands of people, Jesus walking on water and even controlling the weather, in calming the storm. And they even witnessed Jesus raising the dead with Jairus’ daughter, the widow’s son and Lazarus. All of Jesus’ teachings and miracles are evidence pointing to the existence of God, but Jesus did not come to answer the question, ‘how can I know there’s a God’: Jesus came to show us the way back to God… so that we can be forgiven and come to know God personally.
Jesus came to pay the price for our rebellion; for our ignoring God and choosing to live life our own way, what the Bible calls sin. Jesus came to die in our place, taking the punishment that we deserve; He came to offer himself as a perfect sacrifice, taking our sin upon himself at the cross; paying the price for our sin so that we wouldn’t have to. And as a result of what Jesus has accomplished and done for us, forgiveness and eternal life are promised to all who will receive Him.
Freedom from the burdens of past guilt, wonderful new life and a restored relationship with God are a free gift to all who will receive it: to all who repent, accept Christ and follow him.
Some people go through life ignorant and unaware of the relevance of Jesus. I’m convinced this is because they have never really bothered or taken the time to really explore Christianity and discover for themselves, who Jesus is and what he came to do. This is astonishing, really, especially when you consider that the whole of the world records time as either before or after Jesus’ death! How much more relevant does a person have to be? Phillips Brooks was an Anglican Bishop who lived over a hundred year ago; he summed up the effect of Jesus’ life like this:
‘He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in still another village, where he worked in a carpenter shop until he was thirty. Then for three years he was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a house. He didn’t go to college. He never visited a big city. He never travelled two hundred miles from the place where he was born. He did none of the things one usually associates with greatness. He had no credentials but himself. He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. He was turned over to his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. While he was dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing, the only property he had on earth. When he was dead he was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend. [Twenty] centuries have come and gone, and today he is the central figure of the human race and the leader of mankind’s progress. All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not effected the life of man on this earth as much as that one solitary life.’
Many people ask the question, ‘How can I know there is a God?’ and here we have seen that there is a great deal of evidence or proof for God’s existence. The question now is what are we going to make of it? Like the three men pondering over who built the city, each of us is faced with a choice: you can ignore the facts, shrug your shoulders and carry on with life as if it doesn’t matter. You can deny the facts and say God is just an illusion; we are all an accident; a product somehow of chance. Or, if you really want to find out ‘How you can know God’… you can accept the facts, turn to Christ and receive forgiveness and eternal life. Then you will really begin to live and know what life here, and in the hereafter, is truly all about. It’s your call!’
In a sentence the offer of Christianity is this: Forgiveness for all that is past (a clean slate), new life here for today (a fresh start), and a wonderful hope for the future. It’s a free gift to all who will receive it, by faith. You don’t deserve it; you can’t earn it but it’s free to all who are accept and receive Christ.