A W Tozer (Wikipedia)
A.W. Tozer: “What we believe about God is the most important thing about us.”
Philosopher, Mortimer Adler: “More consequences for thought and action follow the affirmation or denial of God than from answering any other basic question.”
A. Why we must start with the existence of God when witnessing to Aussies who do not believe in God.
1. The direct statement of the Bible:
“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).
2. The Bible’s example of how to reach non-theists:
At the Areopagus (Mars Hill)–Acts 17:16-34, Paul used three principles for sharing the gospel with agnostics (those who did not know if God existed):
(a) Appeal to general revelation (e.g. creation) [vv. 22-29
- God is the Creator of the universe (v. 24);
- God is the Sustainer of life (vv. 25, 28a);
- God is the Ruler of the nations (vv. 26-27);
- God is the Father of human beings (vv. 28b-29);
(b) Argue the necessity of judgment [vv. 29-31a]
Judgment is an essential part of the gospel message.
- It will be universal (will judge the world — v. 31);
- The standard will be righteous (justice v. 31);
- It is definite judgment; the day has been set and the Judge has been appointed (v. 31);
- Christ’s resurrection is proof that He will be both Lord and Judge (v. 31).
(c) Announce the good news [v. 30, 31b]
- There is the God;
- There is judgment;
- There is the Saviour.
John Stott wrote:
“Many people are rejecting our gospel today not because they perceive it to be false, but because they perceive it to be trivial. People are looking for an integrated world-view which makes sense of all their experience. We learn from Paul that we cannot preach the gospel of Jesus without the doctrine of God, or the cross without creation, or salvation without judgment. Today’s world needs a bigger gospel, the full gospel of Scripture, what Paul later in Ephesus was to call ‘the whole counsel of God’ (Acts 20:27, NEB, RSV).”
B. What are some of the reasons people give for not believing in God?
- He’s just a figment of the imagination–he’s an invented fantasy.
- He’s a crutch.
- How could you possibly believe in an all-loving, all-powerful God with all the evil, illness and suffering in the world?
- Surely you can’t discount all the other great religions: Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Shintoism, Taoism, etc.?
- You can’t trust the Bible.
- We live in a modern, scientific age when there is no room for this nonsense about a God whom you can’t see. What you see it what you get.
- Evolution is a natural phenomenon, needing no room for a supreme being.
- Besides science and the Bible contradict.
- Jesus is just another guru.
- There are far too many hypocrites in the church. Why would I want to join them?
- To believe in God is irrational. I’m a reasonable human being. If you can’t prove it to me, I won’t believe in it. Christianity is unreasonable.
- Then there’s this gobble-dee-gook about miracles.
- I want no association with those holy-roller yahoos down the road.
- God is in the same category as the tooth fairy and Santa Claus.
- I used to believe in those things but now I have grown out of them.
C. What are the practical implications?
1. What difference will it make in life if human beings regard themselves as in charge of their own lives and so in charge of the universe? Or, on the other hand, what if there is a Supreme Being whom we fear, love, is a power to be defied, or is the Lord to be obeyed?
If I am in charge:
- what happens when a loved one is murdered in cold blood?
- What about disasters like September 11? What about the tsunami in the Indian Ocean?
- What can I do about water in drought after the dams, barrages and wells have run dry?
- What can I do to stop the horrible crimes in my city or elsewhere in the world?
- Do I have the power to change a sexual abuser (perpetrator) into a law-abiding citizen?
- Who causes the tides to rise; plants to flower; whales to return to Hervey Bay and turtles to Mon Repos every year?
- What makes murder, stealing, lying, etc. wrong?
Humpbacks frequently beach, throwing two-thirds or more of their bodies out of the water and splashing down on their backs (courtesy Wikipedia).
Turtle laying eggs (public domain)
Freshly hatched turtles making their way back to the ocean after hatching (public domain)
2. If we acknowledge a divine being/thing, does it matter:
- if the divine is just a concept of God (something in our head that is nothing more than an intellectual idea)?
- does it matter if the divine is just something for us to speculate or argue about in the smoko room, over a beer at the pub, or in university philosophy classes?
- does it matter if the divine is the living God whom people worship in all their acts of worship and who is the Creator and Boss of the universe?
D. People who reject God most often fall into two categories:
Atheists believe that God does not exist.
a. It is always more difficult to prove what is not than what is.
“Say, for example, I call downstairs to my wife in the morning telling her that I can’t find my socks. She says,
‘Fuzzy Wuzzy Was A Woman!’
‘They’re in the spare room.’
I look for a few moments then yell downstairs, ‘No they’re not!’
‘Yes they are,’ she replies.
“It’s much easier for her to prove her case. If she comes upstairs and finds them, she was right. Even if she can’t find them straight away, she may still be right if they are found later. To prove my case I have to search every inch of the room, leaving absolutely no space unexplored. She will only have been proved wrong when I have done all this.”
Atheism is like that. It can only be proved true if every single piece of information in the whole universe is uncovered and all of it at the same time (just in case God hides from us in one place while we are looking in another). This is an impossible task.
Only the most arrogant human beings would claim to know everything. Yet without this knowledge, no atheist can say that he/she is absolutely sure that God does not exist.
The atheist can offer no leak-proof argument that God does not exist.
It’s a statement of faith supported by supposed philosophical arguments, personal experience, the informed opinion of experts, but in the end it falls flat because no absolute proof can be found.
So the statement, “There is no God,” has ‘UNPROVED’ written all over it.
b. Could you imagine living every day under the pressure of somebody finding evidence that God does exist and therefore foul up your entire way of living?
It’s a very insecure position. Like the socks, any moment could prove the wife right. I can only be right at the end of a long search.
George Bernard Shaw, an atheist and the mind behind My Fair Lady, illustrates just how insecure this position is:
“The science to which I pinned my faith is bankrupt. I believed it once. In its name I helped destroy the faith of millions of worshippers in the temples of a thousand creeds. And now they look at me andwitness the tragedy of an atheist who has lost his faith.”
c. Where’s the power?
Since when has atheism changed a drug addict into a decent, law-abiding member of society. How many hospitals, retirement villages, leprosariums, humanitarian projects have been founded and continue, based on atheistic ideals?
Atheism has no moral power to change lives.
An agnostic is unsure whether there is a God or not. Maybe, maybe not! Some get quite aggressive about it: “We can’t be certain about anything, so I won’t make a decision either way.” This person is an agnostic who will not budge.
The agnostic sits on the fence.
“Imagine for a moment that you are drowning at sea and two boats arrive to rescue you. they arrive just as you are going down for the third time. You know that one of the boats has a bomb on it and will be blown up within minutes, but you don’t know which boat. Because you know only one of the boats can be trusted, you choose to stay in the ‘safety’ of the water. Sure enough, one of the boats sinks like a stone and the other sails off into the safety of a harbour. You drown! You were so right about only one boat being safe, but so wrong about your decision to stay in the water. Dead wrong! At least on the boat you had a fifty/fifty chance of success.”
The agnostic is like that. He ignores the only two options: there is a God or there is not a God. So he always makes the wrong choice.
For people who want moral help, the atheist can say, “Forget it. Stand on your dig and get on with life.” The Christian says the loving, caring God is available now. But for the agnostic, there is only scepticism, confusion and doubt.
At some point in your looking for answers, not knowing is a reasonable place to be for a short time, but its a nightmare to live in.
E. Some Sign Posts to God’s Existence
There are very few things in life that are as certain as 1+1=2. I know my wife loves me because she says so and does loving things to and with me, but I do not have a fool proof way of knowing she absolutely loves me. But I have the kind of proof needed in court, proof beyond reasonable doubt. That’s the kind of proof we need for life.
That’s all we need to know that God exists. God has left sign posts all over the world.
1. Order & design in the universe
If the earth were closer to the sun we would be fried; if further away we would freeze to death.
Think of life itself. Plants give off oxygen that human beings need. Human beings breathe out carbon dioxide that plants need.
Just think of the wonder of what happens when a woman’s egg (ovum) joins with man’s sperm. From that joining comes legs, hair, skin, blood, brain, heart and other organs of the body. Have you ever thought of the complexity of the human eye?
Chance seems a shoddy way to explain it. God’s designer label is spread out across the universe.
“Sir Isaac Newton, one of the great scientists of the seventeenth century, once built a model of the solar system to help him in his studies. One of his atheistic scientist friends came to see him one day and asked who made the model. ‘Nobody!’ Newton replied. When the scientist accused him of being ridiculous, Newton explained that if no one had a problem in realizing that a model needed a maker, why as it such a problem when confronted with the real universe?”
The total lunar eclipse passed north of the earth’s central shadow on October 8, 2014 (courtesy Wikipedia)
2. Our desires
We get hungry, thirsty and cold. Even a deep search among primitive tribes in the jungle reveals that there is a belief in some kind of God or gods. We have a deep desire for worship.
In spite of Communists banning it, atheists rejecting it, dictators abusing it, intellectuals scoffing at it, and governments suppressing it–it is still there. As maths whiz and philosopher, Pascal, put it back in the 17th century: There’s a God-shaped vacuum in every one of us.
3. We know right from wrong
Don’t we agree that murder, rape, stealing, telling lies, greed, selfishness, and mugging are wrong?
Our daily talk gives it away: “How could he do such a thing to an innocent child?” Why is there such an outcry against juvenile vandalism and graffiti? When teenagers abuse their parents, why the protest?
When a father sexually abuses his 8-year-old, why the fuss if there is no God?
If the atheist is correct and there is nobody we are responsible to, why should we care about values? As Russian author, Fyodor Dostoevsky, said: “If God is dead everything is permitted.”
“In other words, if there is no transcendent standard of the good, then there can ultimately be no way to distinguish right from wrong, good from evil, and there can be no saints or sinners, no good men or bad men. If God is dead, ethics is impossible.”
Where do these moral values come from?
4. The purpose of life
What are we on earth for? We have deep needs for purpose. If there is no God, the universe is just a huge accident. Our life is a fluke.
The average atheist lives life without an awareness of the awful consequences of atheism. Living life without purpose drives many people to suicide.
I find that this is the fundamental problem for our youth who are committing suicide. Hopelessness is what dominates their lives. Mum and Dad are splitting up. They go to school, TAFE (Technical & Further Education, Australia), university and there still might not be a job for them — on the dole for the rest of their lives. So they get into drugs, sex and thrash music. Nothing worth living for, except this moment. Life is without purpose. Hopeless.
This is the problem in Russia today–hopelessness.
I ask you: What answers can you give that will stop Australia from becoming another Bosnia, Syria or Iraq? What will stop another Hitler from arising on the world stage?
See, ‘Mass slaughter in a Bosnian field knee-deep in blood‘ (The Independent, 21 July 1995) and ‘Adolph Hitler: The Holocaust’.
As Ravi Zacharias puts it: “It is evident that life without God is not working. The question really should be, What is going to keep the whole world from becoming another Bosnia?”
5. Somebody made the universe
Everything that is an effect was caused by something. Nothing just happens. We are forced to ask: who or what started the universe in the beginning? Chance or luck cause nothing. They are just a description when we don’t have any other answer.
The other alternative is that God started it. This world is here because God exists and he made it.
6. Many people have met him
Millions of person have met God and have a personal relationship with Him. They may be doctors or brickies, tribes people from Africa or sophisticated university intellectuals. He has changed crooks into law-abiding citizens. He specialises in taking rebels and making them submit to him. It is very difficult to write all of these people off as fanatics or cranks.
7. Meet Jesus Christ
He said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). God has come to earth in the person of Jesus Christ. He lived among us. We know what God is like by seeing Jesus in action–healing, compassion on the destitute, chastising the religious self-righteous, and offering salvation to all by dying as a common criminal for the sins of the world.
I visited a prison and met a prisoner who had a reputation of being the “religious” one in the group. He openly quoted Scripture. When I spoke with him he told me that he had committed his life to Jesus Christ as Lord since he came to prison. He is openly sharing Christ with all the prisoners he meets. He told me of how his wicked life was turned around when he met Jesus Christ personally.
 With lots of help from Stephen Gaukroger (1989), especially chapter 1, “Can I really believe in God?”
 Mortimer Adler (in Little 1987: 21).
 G. B. Shaw (in Gaukroger 1989:9).
 Adapted from Gaukroger (1989:12 ff).
 In The Brothers Karamazov (1880), cited in Sire (1988:118).
 Ravi Zacharias (1994:51).
Gaukroger S 1989. It Makes Sense. London: Scripture Union.
Little, P 1970. Know What You Believe. Wheaton, Illinois: Victor Books.
Sire, J W 1988. The Universe Next Door. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.
Stott, J R W 1990. The Message of Acts (The Bible Speaks Today). Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press.
Zacharias, R 1994. Can Man Live Without God? Dallas: Word Publishing.
Copyright (c) 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document is free content. You can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the OpenContent License (OPL) version 1.0, or (at your option) any later version. This document last updated at Date:11 October 2014.