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I realize this question could also be addressed on Philosophy.SE, but I am very interested to get specifically the Christian perspective on this issue.

I was raised Catholic, but have left the Church in the last few years because of conflicts between my beliefs and the Church's. My lack of belief has definitely negatively affected my relationships with my family and I would really like a reason to believe once more. I suppose my real problem is that I have a hard time seeing a scenario, given what we have learned about the universe, that requires God to exist.

The question I would like to pose is, "According to Christianity, why must there be a God?"

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The lack of reasons why there must be a God does not in any way reflect on whether there is a God. Furthermore, it is quite valid to believe a thing, even though there is no proof requiring the thing. You do it all the time - I assure you. For example, most computer scientists believe that NP-Complete problems are not solvable in polynomial time. However, there is no formal proof as of yet to this effect. This neither stops us from looking for a proof, nor from believing that it is probably true, regardless of provability. –  Eric Jul 31 '12 at 20:13
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@Eric indeed, but usually people base critically-reasoned decisions on either: observable evidence (direct or indirect) for a "thing", or a well-reasoned logical demonstration of the requirement of a "thing" in the absence of evidence (consider the Higgs Boson until very recently). A huge question for many believers-with-doubts, and outright disbelievers is: does this god actually exist? why should I believe that? what reason would I have to accept this supernatural tale as true? –  Marc Gravell Aug 1 '12 at 9:54
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@degausser - painful as it is, your families issues with your non-belief have very little to do with whether you should believe - that should be based on whether you find evidence or reason on your own. –  zipquincy Aug 1 '12 at 15:18
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@Sarfraz. (a) Pascal's wager is fundamentally ridiculous. (b) Believing in God is not in any way correlated with being "a good human". (In fact, there's some amount of evidence for the opposite, but I wouldn't like to imply there's any causal effect there.) –  TRiG Aug 6 '12 at 18:27
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There's an additional problem with Pascal's wager. Suppose a person A says: life is finite, believe in my God or else suffer an infinitely long hell. Then person B comes along and says: person A's hell is countably infinite; believe in my God, or else be thrown into a uncountably infinite hell!. then person C comes along and says: believe in my God, or else be thrown into a 2^{2^{R}}-infinite hell. ... –  user1694 Aug 20 '12 at 3:47

10 Answers 10

up vote 24 down vote accepted

There are several classical arguments for believing in God, including:

The cosmological argument, which says that (logically) everything exists because it is caused by something else or because it has always existed. It says that everything that has been caused by something else must be caused by something else and so on until you get to something that is without cause. A thing without cause must always have existed. The first cause is God.

The teleological argument argues that the universe looks as if it has a design and a purpose. It argues that this is because it has a designer who gave it a purpose. It asks for a reason for the order in the universe, for natural laws and principles, and finds an explanation in God.

The ontological argument argues that God must exist if you can imagine that He exists... I'm not sure why, to be honest.

The moral argument says that naturalistic explanations of morality, love etc. are inadequate to explain the existence of morality, love etc.

Each of these arguments has received considerable attention by philosophers and theologians, with counter-arguments and counter-counter arguments having been debated for centuries. At the very least, however, some version of these arguments may remove intellectual barriers to faith and position you to accept the possibility that God is real.

Of course, even if you accept the veracity of one of these arguments, the God in its conclusion isn't necessarily the God of Christianity. Nevertheless, the conclusion of these arguments does appear to be compatible with Christianity. Moreover, some writers suggest that the cumulative effect of the arguments is to validate the Christian world-view.

For most Christians, rational argument is only a part of why we believe. Instead, we choose Jesus on the basis of religious experience or because he fills an emotional or pragmatic need. In my view, nobody can be certain of God's existence (or non-existence), but you can look at the balance of probabilities. As such, we each have to take responsibility to look at the arguments in the light of our experience and then decide for ourselves what to believe.

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+1 for presenting the several common arguments with neutral detachment. –  Mechanical snail Aug 2 '12 at 1:52
    
This answer has good structure but does not summarize any of the four basic types of argument particularly well. –  Ben Dunlap Apr 12 '13 at 4:05
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To be more helpful: the cosmological argument is more subtle than the summary presented here, the teleological argument is more solid, and the answer doesn't even attempt to explain the ontological argument. –  Ben Dunlap Apr 12 '13 at 4:38

I totally understand your situation.

The best argument for me is "First Cause": http://www.existence-of-god.com/first-cause-argument.html

As a scientifically minded person, arguments from Design tend to fall very short, unless you're talking at the cosmological scale, ie. the "fine tuning" of the various constants that allow the universe to exist at all and for us to have evolved to observe it.

I've also read some about Natural Law, and it has helped me to see God in a different light than the caricature from childhood stories.

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@degausser: it also helps me to think of God not as the stuff "before", "outside of", or "in between" the things that exist, but as existence itself –  kurosch Jul 31 '12 at 20:57

Logical Existence of God

There is a very cogent line of reasoning presented in the book, I don't have enough faith to be an atheist, that goes something like this.

  1. The physical universe consists of time, space, and matter.

  2. Science has proven that the universe had a beginning--the Big Bang.

  3. Nothing can create itself.

  4. Whatever caused the universe to begin had to exist outside the universe of time, space, and matter.

  5. This Creator is God.

Incidentally, the God who reveals Himself in the Bible is:

  1. Outside of time--eternal

  2. Outside of space--omnipresent

  3. Outside of matter--spiritual

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Ok, I guess my problem here is that the space between 4 and 5 is quite a jump for me. It seems like, in this explanation, God is just a place-holder for our lack of knowledge. Is it not possible that the process that started our universe was not God? –  user1930 Jul 31 '12 at 20:01
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@degausser I highly recommend the book I mentioned. It is a very reasoned and logical approach that goes into much greater detail of why the creative force must be personal and other things like that. An impersonal force, if it created personal beings, would be creating something greater than itself. This is impossible. –  Narnian Jul 31 '12 at 20:04
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Defense of this entity being the Christian God is much more involved. –  San Jacinto Jul 31 '12 at 20:13
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@Narnian To paraphrase Carl Sagan, why not "save a step" and declare the universe has always existed and is thus uncreated. The big bang may be an intermediate step; not necessarily a beginning. –  Kaz Dragon Aug 1 '12 at 6:56
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Moderator Note: Please reserve the comment function for items directly relating to improving the post in question. Discussions should be taken to Christianity Chat before they turn into ongoing dialogs on the issue itself. –  Caleb Aug 1 '12 at 15:54

As a Christian I accept evolution and I think we should accept scientific findings that have been validated by the scientific community, and rethink our views when evidence presents an opposing view. This really should not have an effect on religious belief. The Bible is not, never was, and never will be a scientific textbook nor does it speak to us about such matters. I am not certain that there is a God, in the sense that I have evidence to believe in him. I choose to place my faith and trust in Christianity and Jesus Christ because it is the framework that best explains the world that I see and how to interact with it in a manner that is honoring to God.

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Moderator note: (cleared large number of comments) Please take conversations about the issue and between each-other to Christianity Chat and reserve the comment space for direct feeback on individual posts. –  Caleb Aug 6 '12 at 13:10

St. Thomas Aquinas outlines five ways of knowing, from reason alone, that God exists. These are tough to understand without a background in classical philosophy -- it's commonly assumed, for example, that the first and second ways (Unmoved Mover and First Cause) depend on demonstrating the absurdity of an infinite series reaching back in time. But properly understood the arguments have nothing to do with time.

Richard Dawkins famously dismissed the first three of the five ways as "essentially the same" in The God Delusion, which is, understood charitably, a bit of a misreading of Aquinas.

My 2nd-year theology class in college spent ten weeks discussing and arguing about the five ways (which all told would take up a couple of pages in a standard textbook), and I felt like we had barely scratched the surface.

I'm just now starting to read Edward Feser's Aquinas: A Beginner's Guide -- which has a great reputation and is apparently exactly what its title suggests: A user-friendly introduction to the thought of St. Thomas. Among other things it includes a discussion of and defense of the Five Ways (chapter 3, I guess).

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Great answer - best one here. –  Eric Jul 31 '12 at 23:43
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Except that the question isn't answered... –  SigueSigueBen Aug 1 '12 at 16:43
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The first three arguments are the same. As for the fourth, you can substitute "perfect/good" with "evil" it would work the same. Therefore, the absolute evil is what we call God. The fifth one is easily dismissed by our modern understanding of evolution. –  quantumSoup Aug 1 '12 at 16:44
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And yet, the whole argument still fails, like countless others, in demonstrating that this God is in fact the Christian one. –  quantumSoup Aug 1 '12 at 16:47
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@SigueSigueBen, the question is "why must there be a God?". I linked to five classic answers to the question, tried to clear up some rudimentary misunderstandings of those answers, and pointed to a contemporary reference for diving deeper. How does that fail to answer the question? –  Ben Dunlap Aug 1 '12 at 16:50

I have never thought about it much because no other explanation seems to answer my basic questions. My basic question is why am I here, why do I sin and do I have to die? This led me to God years ago.

For basic beliefs in God I think that ’eternity’ can be sensed in space, sky. Also the beauty of nature speaks of someone else bigger than us. Most people throughout history have always believed in a God, or at least gods, simply from this basic observation. Therefore we can say all mankind generally believes in God because of what they see in nature and no other theory has been able to make them disbelieve what seems obvious.

There is no need for a detailed philosophical argument as though it was not clear and plain by itself.

In fact the Bible insults anyone's state of mind when they do not believe in God.

The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." (NIV Psalms 14:1)

This is not meant to insult you. I share it as encouragement to help you avoid a need of a clever argument. Just believe what you already know in you heart and take your doubts to God. He is in the business of removing doubts when you seek Him. Reading the Bible yourself will help you in this a lot. I would start with the gospels, Mathew, Mark, Luke or John.

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As a point of logic: that quote does not imply that all who say that "there is no God" are fools, but that (all) who are fools say that "there is no God." –  Ignatius Theophorus Aug 1 '12 at 5:51
    
@IgnatiusTheophorus unless you are translating from the original source, I suspect it could be ambiguous which way the association is. For example, is it "it is a fool who say in his heart...". –  Marc Gravell Aug 1 '12 at 8:41
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"There is no need for a detailed philosophical argument as though it was not clear and plain by itself." yes, there very much is. Things that are "clear and plain" are not necessarily correct. It was considered "clear and plain" that the sun and moon went around the earth, for example. Frankly, I consider that this completely fails to address the question. "meh, it must be" is not an argument for the existence of God. –  Marc Gravell Aug 1 '12 at 8:42
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@Mike it doesn't matter whether you comprehend it or not; please hear me: every part of my heart, brain, and every other part of my body says "nope, absolutely no evidence or reason for that; it is just hopeful superstition". It isn't a case of resisting the evidence; there is exactly zero to resist. Your last point is silly: based on our admittedly limited perception, one's own existence is apparent. That does not extend to invisible, undetectable, inactive agents. The simpler answer to that is: it doesn't exist: it is a myth: a legend: an accident of tenacious story-telling. –  Marc Gravell Aug 1 '12 at 20:06
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"because we all know it's true" is invalid; "I do not beleive atheists truly exist": no, they really really do; "admit" - the word you are looking for is "accept" or "believe" –  Marc Gravell Aug 2 '12 at 6:21

God is there not to prove his presence for us. It is we, who have to seek and know Him and then He Makes Himself known to us. It is we, who have to make efforts to seek him and understand his presence in our daily life ad not vice versa. If we pretend to be blind for whatever he has done in this universe and to us then it is our problem and not God’s. He is always there to make Himself known to us and what is required is our will to acknowledge his presence out there.

Take a real life example of boarding a plane to travel to a distant city. How we are sure that we will reach there safely and at that designated arrival time. Some one will say that I know nothing would happen because the ground staff would take care of everything and carry out all the pre flight checks to ensure that everything is fine for the plane to take off/land.

However, how we can be content that these technicians did their job flawlessly. We have no way of checking it nor has time to do it every time we board a plane. We only ‘believe’ that they have done their job correctly, would also ‘hope’ so and also ‘trust’ in their ability in doing it precisely and also keep ‘faith’ in their sincerity so that they have not missed deliberately any critical checks and also know that it is their duty to do it diligently etc etc.

With all these assumptions but with no concrete way of verifying it our self, we relax in our seat with an assurance that we will reach our destination safely at the predetermined time. That is exactly the way religious people believe in God. However, unlike these ground technicians, the only difference is that innumerable people experience God when they have proper relationship with Him and this happens with only the chosen few and the rest of us at least have to believe these chosen few for assuring the presence of God.

Atheist put forth argument that the universe is in place and the it is there so, in that orderly manner owing to physical laws but fail to explain how these laws came into existence. We need to understand that Creation of universe by God is akin to developing a computer or a computer programme step by step and running it to get the desired results. Scientists and programmers are doing exactly the same for a PC to get the desired results. Ultimately, what layperson understands is that it is the PC that has given the desired output, when in fact the real architect is the programmer or the maker of PC. That is what happened when universe was formed. God programmed all these laws and left them to do the rest, the way HE desired including the “evolution” if it is there.

In Genesis it says that the land was initially a huge single mass. Even scientists say that it was a deformed earth earlier and after the movement of the land mass, it took the shape as it is now. Some places where it went too high, it became hills and mountains. It is a known fact that Indian sub continent was earlier touching Australia and after slow movement(drifting) of land mass, which still continues to happen even today, it got separated and that’s how Himalaya is also formed. Initially when God created land, he probable was instrumental in accelerating it at much faster rate as He was the author of everything. It is like making a PC to run as you want by developing a suitable programme to get the desired result. Only the inventor of a PC would know how to make it work the way he desire and then leave it to the PC to do it s work on its own.

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Universe without a Creator? It is a simple impossibility. If so then why so much of order and so much of compatibility. I have already said about order existing in the universe in my earlier answer. Now a little probing about the compatibility. It is impossible to get compatibility in the living things by the process so much hyped by atheist and called evolution.

Assuming for the sake of argument that evolution is tenable, then the least we can accept that a evolution can do is to evolve a creature to a better creature, but not create a compatible mating creature to it. My question is, how the existence of male and female in every type of creatures came into being through evolution. A male cannot evolve into female over the years. What a fallacy to believe that it happened through evolution? Take the simple case of organs for reproduction. They are exactly compatible to each other. How this can happen through evolution? Unless there is some external force who made this happen and the other intricacies in them, which I would not like to dissect further here. There are so many other things which are both unique as well as compatible between male and female and unless there is a master designer this would be impossible to imagine that it happened through evolution.

You can understand God and know Him only through faith and not by human reasoning. If that was the case then He would be just like a creature not Creator...Think of Stephan Hawkings.. such a genius..Possibly this is God's way of preventing humans from knowing too much about Him.

The posts that I see which are against existence of God appears to be from well informed people and from those who have mastered science. Be it known that there are many renowned scientist who have done deep research in many fields of science and yet they are still believers in a Creator. With miniscule knowledge of science and relying on the books from authors who in way have any scientific background to their repute can be dangerous. They are only misleading by ignorance of not having complete knowledge of science. I am sure none of those who have posted these answers, have actually witnessed any of the experiments that these scientist claimed to have proved and I would not expect them to do so. Yet they believe what is told to them just because it is recorded lately and not 2000 years back. You know what I mean.

One thing that I found, out of place in a para of quantumSoup is “why not follow teachings of Muhammad? This looks like firing from shoulder of foe in arms. Why to follow the teaching of Mohammad? @Shredder has already clarified in his comment and I would append that the message that is emanating from his preaching is diametrically opposite to that of Jesus. Sporadic preaching about indulging in violence and participating in that violence towards some refusing to follow him and his ultimate death completely contrasts to Jesus who preached love and only love to the extent of loving your enemy and practiced these teaching in his lifetime. This too, leaving aside his Divinty which is a different topic. He even mingled with sinners to make them change their lives and to bring them on right path...and death could not over power him but was raised to life after death. Draw your conclusion from this.

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"A male cannot evolve into female over the years. What a fallacy to believe that it happened through evolution?" actually, there are many species that can change inside a single lifetime. Sorry, but I believe this answer is ignorant of a lot of basic fundamental knowledge of biology and evolution. Re " just because it is recorded lately" - no, because it has been strongly supported by repeatable evidence, thoroughly peer reviewed. You can retest this stuff. Science isn't just what a person says to be true. –  Marc Gravell Aug 2 '12 at 11:23
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There are scientific theories on the evolution of sexual reproduction, just because you can't think of a way it might have happened doesn't mean it is impossible. And your remark about Hawking is tasteless and disgusting, I recommmend you remove that entirely. –  Mad Scientist Aug 2 '12 at 11:42
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@mad Scientist ..My apologies ..removed it. By the way you said theories not proof or experiments.. –  JoaoRodrigues Aug 2 '12 at 13:05
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-1 This post is riddled with misconceptions about evolution and belies a lack of understanding of what a scientific theory is. It's not a hunch or a guess. A theory explains how things work the way they do given the existing evidence and have been shown to be correct time and again. Gravitational theory explains why objects fall when dropped. Feel free to jump off a cliff if you believe theories are just speculation. In fact, we probably have more evidence supporting the theory of evolution than gravity. –  quantumSoup Aug 2 '12 at 16:23
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@Joao. Proudly waving your own ignorance around as a banner is not a good way to win friends and influence people. –  TRiG Aug 3 '12 at 12:20

It is better for you to believe in God who rules the universe (and keeps it in perfect order) than NOT believing. When you believe in God, you turn out to be a good human. If you believe there is no God but in the end there turns out to be One on the Day, you will loose. However if you believe there IS a God, you are not loosing anything at all, so it is better to believe (with no cost) than to not believe (at the possible cost of punishment).

Human has limited senses to perceive each and everything in this universe. There are certain things you don't feel but have to believe in. Not believing in God because you don't feel or perceive Him sounds absurd, you can't prove He doesn't exit to those who believe. You need to explore the nature, working of a cell to anything, you would notice complete order in everything.

Human nature calls for help automatically when in troubles and adversities which itself is a proof that there is One, the Creator.

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Hey @Swrfraz and welcome to Christianity.SE. I appreciate your participation in the site and would encourage you to continue, however I need to emphisis that when it comes to answers, we are looking for things that represent Christian doctrine. This answer does not. The line of reasoning here is common among philosophers both inside and outside of Christian circles and is often held by nominal professing Christians, but at its core anybody that understands the teachings of Christianity would agree that it is contrary to the Christian faith. –  Caleb Aug 3 '12 at 11:57
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@Caleb. Pascal's wager has always struck me as profoundly stupid, even when I was religious. –  TRiG Aug 3 '12 at 12:05

Not all Christians claim that there is a reason for "There must be a God"

Quoting Tozer:

Faith never goes contrary to reason; faith simply ignores reason and rises above it. Reason could not tell us that Jesus Christ should be born of the Virgin Mary, but faith knows he was. Reason cannot prove that jesus took upon Him the form of a man and died under the sins of the world, but faith knows that He did. Reason can not prove that the third day He rose from the dead, but faith knows that He did. Faith is an organ of knowledge.

Fundamental rationalists say the human brain alone is an organ of knowledge. They forget there are at lest two other organs of knowledge. Feeling is an organ of knowledge, too. All the reasoning in the world couldn't tell you the temperature was 90 today. You felt that it was. I can stand heat like a lizard, but I've had enough of this. And I know it was hot today. I had an organ of knowledge today - feeling.

A young man loves a young woman. How does he know it? Does he read the Encyclopedia Britannica and apply reason to it? No. He listens to the ticking of his own heart. He knows it by feeling. Feeling is an organ of knowledge. reason is an organ of knowledge and faith is an organ of knowledge. And we have to believe that.

Reason can not say, "Jesus rose from the dead." Faith knows He did. Reason cannot say, "He sits at the right hand of God Father Almighty." Reason doesn't know, but faith knows that he did. Reason cannot say, "He shall come to judge the quick and the dead." But faith knows that He will come. Reason cannot say, "My sins are all gone." But faith knows they're gone. So, all down the line, faith is an organ of knowledge. ...

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Good answer in terms of how it relates to the question. As an idle observation (not a critique of the answer, as the words are not yours), The "fundamental rationalist" would respond that feeling and faith are functions of the brain, along with knowledge; not separate organs parallel-to and equal-with the brain, and that (thinking of the temperature example) the "knowledge" here is merely recollection of sensory inputs and nervous responses earlier in that day. –  Marc Gravell Aug 20 '12 at 6:47
    
@Marc: I don't quite buy the "temperature" example either. As technically, we can use thermometers to measure the temperature. However, I do buy the "falling in love" example and the "Jesus rose from the dead" example. I don't know how to measure either of those exactly. –  user1694 Aug 20 '12 at 6:55
    
adrenaline, dopamine, seratonin, oxytocin, vasopressin, ... –  Marc Gravell Aug 20 '12 at 7:05
    
I think that's infatuation and excitement. Do old married copies still have such chemical responses? –  user1694 Aug 20 '12 at 8:12
    
I genuinely do not know –  Marc Gravell Aug 20 '12 at 8:15

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