I understand that there is an element call faith to believe a system of belief. But my question is, are there valid arguments to prove God to someone who does not believe? Or at least to present God as logical?
7I think there's often confusion here regarding the definition of the words "prove" and "logical". The 5 points in your answer are philosophical arguments, but people often interpret "prove" and "logical" as referring to the scientific definitions. It may help to clarify your meaning?– Marc GravellFeb 7, 2012 at 12:52
4It is possible to demonstrate that the God of the bible is logical (either from a scientific or philosophical standpoint), however that's not the same as proving He exists. I can prove that an invisible giant rabbit is logical (by coming up with an explanation for how he's invisible, what genetic mutations made him giant, etc), but that doesn't prove he exists. It just proves I'm a science fiction writer. I think you've asked two completely unrelated questions here.– FlimzyFeb 7, 2012 at 19:29
2This is, in fact, a philosophy of religion question.– Jon EricsonFeb 7, 2012 at 19:35
I think the universe, especially Earth, and the conscience of man are enough proof. People that personally witnessed Jesus' miracles didn't even do it for them. It is not proof that makes a Christ follower. In Christ's 1000 year reign on Earth, people will still be born and choose to not follow Christ. How someone can be so ignorant beats me, but it will happen.– Nick RolandoFeb 7, 2012 at 21:54
1@Shredder the problem is, there are a number of different religions (current, past, and no-doubt future) who would all argue that your "universe, Earth, conscience" applies equally to prove them. In reality, it proves nothing.– Marc GravellFeb 10, 2012 at 23:52
The classic arguments I know are the following :
- Cosmological argument: That every thing that has a beginning must have a cause.
- Theological argument: The order and the useful setting in a system imply an intelligence and a finality that did the organization.
- Ontological argument: That the idea of God itself is a proof for the existence of God. How can a finite being imagine an infinite one?
- Moral argument: The conscience of the human is proof of a conscience giver. Or, the morality within man means that there must be a moral law giver.
- Congruence argument: This argument maintains that the previous arguments present the best way to understand the person of God. That the belief in the existence of God is the better way to explain our moral nature (mental and religious). Also, it is the better way to explain the material universe.
These arguments work together to form one argument. So please don't work with these as 5 single, independent arguments.
5Of course, these arguments have all been refuted in several ways. However, the main problem is that even if these arguments were all valid, they merely prove a god, not the God of Christianity.– hammarFeb 7, 2012 at 12:28
5These are indeed 5 of the common ones; however, these are a: not very rigid in terms of logic / inference / deduction (they all have holes), and b: if anything, they are all Deistic, not Christian; not one of those 5 even attempts to make the necessary step (re the question) of showing "and this cause is Yahweh". Also; to be precise: the first 4 are separate/independent arguments; the 5th pre-supposes the other 4 and doesn't even attempt to justify why "the best way" (nothing else is considered or eliminated) Feb 7, 2012 at 12:32
@MarcGravell Thanks for jumping in. I wanted you input on this one. Feb 7, 2012 at 13:25
1As Marc mentioned these arguments are not meant to work together, they were formulated independently over centuries. One interesting related argument is 'Kalām cosmological argument'. Dr William Lane Craig has an entire book on that subject. Also, for those interested please look into the work of Alvin Plantinga on the ontological argument, which has several logical proofs, and as far as I know, the premises have not been satisfactory refuted. It makes an argument for a maximal being that has a lot in common with the God of the bible, though admittedly not an intuitive argument. Feb 14, 2012 at 15:10
1Here is the link to the book on the 'Kalam cosmological argument' I had cited. Feb 14, 2012 at 15:41
No Overwhelming Proof
There may be cause to distinguish between, "Is there a way to prove the existence of the God of the Bible to all people in all times?" from the question of "Has there ever been a way to prove the existence of the God of the Bible?"
The answer to latter question is affirmative, although the accounts of this are recorded in the Bible itself. Nonetheless, the people of Israel were given overwhelming proof that the God of the Bible was real many times over for specific people in time. To mention a few...
- The plagues in Egypt were pretty concrete proof.
- The parting of the Red Sea for those who passed through it.
- God's Presence in the Pillar of Fire by night and the Cloud by Day.
- The showdown between Elijah and the prophets of Baal and Ashteroth was significant.
- The chariots of God that were tens of thousands.
- Elijah's exit into heaven, seen by Elisha
- The miracles that Jesus performed were pretty convincing proof.
- Those who saw the Jesus after His resurrection from the dead, including Saul of Tarsus.
- Isaiah seeing the throne of God was probably quite convincing.
So, God certainly did provide very convincing proof of His existence in times past--not to everyone who ever lived since the beginning of the world. Yet, as Jesus told Thomas, "blessed are they who have not seen, yet believe."
So, for whatever reason, it does not appear to be God's desire to show overwhelming evidence to every person who has ever lived in all times. It does appear that He offers "sufficient" evidence, but not "overwhelming" evidence to every person, including general revelation in creation.
However, just because there isn't overwhelming evidence or proof for something certainly does not mean it isn't true.
The classical arguments are certainly good places to start. The book, I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist has some really good lines of reasoning in it as well.
At its root, the universe itself either came from nothing or it came from something or someone. All of our experimentation and reason indicates that "Nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could..." (to reference The Sound of Music). We know from logic and reason that nothing can create itself. Something has to exist before it can create anything.
Science now tells us convincingly that the universe is not eternal. The implication is that it began to exist, so it must have a cause that is greater than itself. The physical universe of time, space, and matter must have been created by a being that is outside of time, space, and matter. That Creator does correlate to the God of the Bible, who is outside of time, outside of space, and outside of matter.
A complete logical argument would need to entail evidence of prophecies fulfilled and the resurrection of Jesus, which is the crux of Christianity (pun intended).
Ultimately, it always comes down to testimony. To quote Hume: “No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish” Feb 11, 2012 at 16:07
In Mere Christianity, CS Lewis describes such a proof (source):
My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet.
Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too- for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist-in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless-I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality-namely my idea of justice-was full of sense.
Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.
In other words, we would not have even a concept of justice, if absolute justice did not exist, just like a fish has no concept of either dry or wet.
CS Lewis also had his famous trilemma, demonstrating that if you accept the existence of Jesus and what He said, He must have been God. Nicky Gumbel (I think) summarised it as Jesus can only have been Mad, Bad or God."
Here's the trilemma in full:
"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 Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the 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. ... Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.
1I think interesting contrasts in the trilemma can be found in Joseph Smith, Lafayette Ronald Hubbard, etc (with no particular sleight intended towards either scientologists or mormons). It is not necessary to be a raving lunatic to say convincing things that get big followings and that are tenacious, Feb 7, 2012 at 18:29
@MarcGravell: they did not claim to be God. Feb 7, 2012 at 18:44
2my point was: even if we, for the sake, assume that we have (against all probability) a perfect record of the things that we're said etc - the trilemma suggests that it would not be possible to be lucid, charismatic and convincing. All I'm saying is that with the assumption of accurate recording, the trilemma does not robustly exclude all the options. A false trichotomy, if you will. Feb 7, 2012 at 19:26
2@MarcGravell. I think the point, though, is the things that Jesus said (re: being God) are what make the trilemma a trillema to begin with. He claimed to offer people forgiveness from sins and offered himself as the true and only way to reconciliation with God, which in the process led them from other alternatives. He either believed these things --and was, therefore, either correct (i.e. God, per his claims) or crazy (i.e. mad) -- or he didn't believe the things he said -- which would have made him a poor teacher and horrible moral example (i.e. bad)...– StevenFeb 7, 2012 at 20:32
1@Steven I phrased it poorly, but: this is the bit that is poorly qualified: "Now it seems to me obvious that..." - the point I was trying to make with my 2 examples (at least one of, by necessity, must be incorrect - perhaps both) - people can seem very convincing (both JS and LRH have followers to whom "it seems obvious that" they are neither a lunatic nor a fiend). Since they are mutually exclusive, it is therefore a logical contradiction to assume that both JS and LRH were telling the truth. The same extends to any similar. Feb 7, 2012 at 21:31
First, it depends what you mean by proof.
- Mathematical proof
- Scientific proof
- Court of law proof
The first of these is the strongest: you can build absolute proofs that cannot be refuted by anyone who accepts the principles of Mathematics. However, such proofs are limited to the perfect abstractions described by mathematicians, and don't necessarily work that well in the real world. For example, you can prove that 1 + 1 = 2, but you can't easily prove that 1 haystack + 1 haystack = 2 haystacks because haystack counting doesn't follow the normal rules (1 haystack + 1 haystack = 1 big haystack). As a result, you can't apply that kind of proof to God.
The second is weaker, but is still strong: scientific proof is the result of trying to find evidence against a theory, and accepting it as proven only if no evidence has yet been found that undermines that theory. If such evidence is found, and if the theory can't be adjusted to accommodate it, then the theory must be rejected. Nevertheless, if such evidence can't be found by the scientific community then there is good reason to accept a theory as proven. Some people feel that this kind of proof does apply to God, but there isn't sufficient consensus to accept that God's existence has been proven in this way.
Finally, the evidence required to convict someone in a court of law is somewhat weaker. The community of investigators is far smaller than that required for scientific proof, and the process of proof is far less rigorous than scientific proof would be. Whereas scientific proof relies on repeatability, this is generally impossible when someone is on trial. Now, despite the relative weakness of courtroom proof, it is often the best we've got, and we have to make real-world (even life-and-death) decisions based on this kind of proof. Many of us have looked the evidence for and against the Christian God's existence and concluded that, to the best of our ability, we have found sufficient 'proof' that He is real. We believers are willing to make real-world decisions on the basis of this proof, but recognize that it is at best a court-room proof rather than a mathematical or even a scientific proof.
For the most part, we believers assume that God's existence is logical. Some of us are able to articulate our understanding of that logic, whilst others are willing to accept that such a logic may exist but that we either don't or even can't know what it is.
As to what evidence people use as the basis of their proof, there are numerous sources, and different believers find different kinds of evidence persuasive. Some popular sources of evidence include:
- Religious experience - either an "inner witness" or observable phenomena attributed to God or to the results of faithful obedience.
- The testimony of other believers
- Historical records, including (but not limited to) the Bible
- Philosophical arguments - such as Pascal's Wager, Lewis' Trilemma, Aquinas arguments (as paraphrased on David Laberge's answer), etc. This includes both arguments for God's existence and refutations of arguments against God's existence.
- Let's be honest - wishful thinking and guesswork
The bottom line is this: we each of us have the option to look at the evidence available for God's existence and makes up their own mind. There is no absolute certainty - but for us Christians, there is enough.
3Your statement of the meaning of scientific proof is misleading; that describes disproof; however, science requires more that a lack of disproof - it requires positive proof, direct or indirect. You can't just say "you can't prove me wrong" - Down that path lies fairies, unicorns and a teapot in space. Re maths... well, that's very misleading too, and the counter-example given does not apply; numeracy is not "maths" in terms of "proof maths"; indeed, the scary end of physics that involves things like the start of the universe (and hence relates to the need/not for God) is largely maths. Feb 7, 2012 at 23:08
I guess ultimately the real conflict is that while a lof of (not all) Christians are stopping at your third proof, secular groups are trying to look at the actual veracity of things, and doing a good job of finding rational and reasonable answers to things (through science) that have previously only been explicable via religion / philosophy. This does have the effect of weakening the evidence that has previously been submitted to the court, so to speak. Feb 7, 2012 at 23:20
@MarcGravell: Your comments on scientific proof are spot on. Thanks for picking me up on that.– KramiiFeb 8, 2012 at 7:48
The bottom line is this: we each of us have the option to look at the evidence available for God's existence and makes up their own mind. There is no absolute certainty - but for us Christians, there is enough.In the end it is not a argument but a will to believe. (Rom 1.20 and following) Feb 8, 2012 at 10:43
No, there are no scientific experiments that you could run to show the existence of God.
When Christians talk about proving God, they mean something along the lines of Malachi 3:10 (NRSV)
Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.
Another oft quoted verse is James 1:5-8 (NRSV)
If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.
In other words, to prove (test) God.
- Believe in His word.
- Ask God for the things he's already promised us.
- Ask in sincere faith.
- See God's blessings in your life.
Jesus claimed to be the God of the the Bible a few times, and he even used the scriptures to support his case (here is only a few verses to make this case):
Jesus claimed to be God:
Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (John 14:8-9 ESV)
I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30 ESV)
Jesus invoked the name of God that was revealed to Moses in Exd 3:14:
Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. (John 8:56-59 ESV)
Jesus claimed to fulfil a reading from Isaiah (61:1-2a):
And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.” And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:17-21 ESV)
Jesus used the scriptures to explaine his death and resurrection:
Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:26-27 ESV)
Paul also held that Jesus' death and resurrection was from the scriptures:
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, (Romans 1:1-4 ESV)
And Paul stated that if Jesus did not rise from the dead (according to the scriptures) then the Christian faith is futile and Christians are misrepresenting God:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, (1 Corinthians 15:3-4 ESV)
And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. (1 Corinthians 15:14-15 ESV)
Jesus and Paul seemed to think that the resurrection of Jesus proved that Jesus was the God of the Bible. If you can prove the resurrection then you have a good case that Jesus is who he said he was. There is no way to prove this scientifically, but historically there is some evidence that may imply it happened. This also depends on how strongly you take the historical sources, but most historians can agree that:
- Jesus died by crucifixion.
- Jesus was honorably buried in an easily accessible public tomb.
- The death of Christ caused His followers to lose all hope in His Messianic claims
- Three days later, the tomb was empty.
- The disciples had genuine experiences that they were convinced were literal appearances of the risen Christ.
- The disciples were radically transformed from skeptics and doubters to bold proclaimers of Christ’s Resurrection.
- Eleven of the twelve apostles suffered martyrs’ deaths for their convictions.
- The Resurrection message was absolutely central to the early preaching of the Church.
- The Resurrection message was central to the entire New Testament.
- The Resurrection was first proclaimed in the very environment most hostile to it, Jerusalem. Even there, those motivated to disprove the Resurrection could not do so.
- The Church exists only because of the disciples’ conviction that the Resurrection occurred.
- The Sabbath Day was changed to Sunday.
- James, Paul, and many other skeptics were only convinced as a result of personally seeing the risen Jesus
Some other resurrection theories (swoon, stolen body, hallucination, mistaken identity, wrong tomb etc...) try and account for either (1) the empty tomb, (2) the resurrection appearances and (3) the transformed lives of his followers, but no theory, besides Jesus' resurrection adequately explains all three.
Resurrect? An Atheist and Theist Dialogue, Gary R. Habermas and Antony G. N. Flew, edited by John F. Ankerberg
Thanks for you answer, this is a great answer to show that Jesus is God. Although I asked how can I prove God? but that Jesus is God. But I like the way you think on the person of Jesus. Feb 8, 2012 at 10:40
You did asked about proving the God of the Bible who I take to be Jesus. "And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself." (Luk 24:17) "I and the Father are one" (Joh 10:30) "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father." (Joh 14:9) (and many other verses). If Jesus did not rise from the dead (according to the scriptures) then the Christian faith is futile and Christians are misrepresenting God (1 Cor 15:14-15). Maybe I should set this up a bit more in my answer.– AmpersFeb 8, 2012 at 22:30
1An important point in this approach: there are many religions, past and present, that feel exactly the same conviction, for exactly the same reasons (meaning: same type of scriptural support - obviously the details differ). They are all mutually exclusive; so... what makes the Biblical account "valid", while the others, remarkably similar in nature, are dismissed as "invalid" ? Feb 14, 2012 at 10:50
Hi Marc, good question and maybe warrants its own page, but briefly this comes to my mind. The Bible is made up of lots of different texts, written in different times and places by different people to different people. This means, unlike some other religious texts, it isn't based on one persons experience or philosophical musing. Because it came about in ordinary means it can be analysed like any other historical document. Christianity has placed its head on the chopping block of history and invites anyone to take a swing (Dickson, The Christ Files).– AmpersFeb 14, 2012 at 22:10
No, but all other existing theories have holes in them. Huge holes.
The current scientific model says it all started with the Big Bang and before that there was nothing. Yet, if an "explosion" creates a New York City, let alone occurs at all, then it is no longer nothing, but something, and no longer a valid answer to explain why we exist.
We can not say the Universe, the laws of physics, reason itself came from nothing. That is no answer.
You also can not say we came from an infinite series of Big Bangs. Think about it like this. Imagine I hand you a letter. You read it, then ask, "who wrote this?" Who created the letter, who wrote it?
I say, I got it from the postman (by our definition postmen do not write letters). You say, "No, who wrote it?" I say it came from an infinite series of postmen. That does not answer your question. We can not say we came from an infinite series of zero explanations.
There are other answers like, from the Great Eagle, things like that. But who made all the eagles?
1There are equally huge holes in the Christian model (although the phrasing of the answer suggests that Christianity is somehow more complete?). Science does not deny the holes - it does not claim that every problem is solved, and is working hard at slowly and gradually identifying, qualifying, and narrowing those holes. Your answer does nothing to provide any reason to accept Christianity as a valid model; nor frankly does it provide any reason to dismiss any model. Mar 16, 2012 at 0:03
I agree about science, but we are not talking science here. So which theory do you think most likely? And what is the big hole in the Christian theory?– HammerMar 16, 2012 at 7:38
Back up a second; you start "all other existing theories", talking about "The current scientific model" and the "Big Bang", "the laws of physics", etc. You are talking about science so please don't claim otherwise. Re holes in Christianity: simply, there is no actual empirical evidence to support any supernatural/God/etc - the most likely answer, then, is that all religions are, as they each feel of every other religion except themselves, well-intended, but human inventions. Re science; I do not claim it knows everything; simple: it is being advanced, day by day. Mar 16, 2012 at 7:47
I think most of the top scientists agree, science is not the place to look for God, that is all I am saying. But Hawkins and Dawkins like to jump in and actually say science explains away God with the nothing formula (nothing = big bang), thats all they got at this point I think. Christianity (forget the Jesus stuff for now) claims: Eternal unchanging creator (it creates) outside the system intelligently built all this. Evidence? The human brain, or that if the gravitational constant were .0000000001 to the tens (or whatever it is) then everything goes poof. Sounds like design.– HammerMar 16, 2012 at 8:40
I see no reason for the human brain to count as evidence, especially seeing the nice progression we can see visibly from other brains. But I doubt we're ever going to agree. Mar 16, 2012 at 9:06