Robert Jeffress - How Can I Know There Is A God?
Hi I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again, to Pathway to Victory. And the opening verses of the Bible we read, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth". But outside of scripture, is there any tangible evidence to prove that God actually exists? It's an honest question that many people may not vocalize, but they harbor in their hearts. So today I'm going to address several of the greatest doubts people wrestle with regarding the existence of God. We're answering the question, "How Can I Know There Is A God?" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
I was saved by God when I was five years old, I was called by God into the ministry when I was 15 years old, I made a pledge to God to remain faithful to my wife when I was 21 years old, I serve God by pastoring a church, I speak and write a lot about the subject of God, I talk to God in the morning, at night and throughout the day. And at times I wonder if God really exists, and I'm not alone. I imagine if most of you are truly honest, you'd have to say there are times that you question the existence of God.
Now I know there's some people and I run into them all the time in the church, they say, "Well, pastor, not me, I may question a lot of things in life, but I've never questioned that there is a God who loves me". In fact, George Gallup, who regularly polls, Americans attitude about things religious, has revealed in a recent survey that nine out of 10 Americans still say they believe in God, which is an amazing statistic. However, I have a sneaking suspicion that people's confidence in the existence of God is not as strong as they would pretend that it is.
Daniel Dennett is one of the new atheists who has written a book entitled, "Darwin's Dangerous Idea". He's launched a vitriolic broadside against Christianity and even though I disagree with everything Dennett says in his book, I have to agree with one thing he says in his book, he draws a distinction between what he calls "belief in God" and "belief in belief". It's his contention that if you probe those nine out of 10, Americans who say they believe in God, what you'll find is they don't believe in God, what they believe in is their belief, in their belief about God. That is in their belief that is rooted in tradition and culture, it's not a true believing in God because after all, Dennett asked, "If nine out of 10 Americans really believed in God in this country, wouldn't this country look differently than it does today"?
Fact is whether we're willing to admit it or not many of us have wondered about the existence of God in fact, I'm confident that the only people who never doubt God, are those who never really think. I agree with pastor Mark Buchanan's claim that, "The depth of our doubt is roughly proportional to the depth of our faith. Those with strong faith have equally strong doubts". That principle bears out in the other direction as well. "People with a trivial and a shallow faith, usually have trivial and shallow doubts".
This series, "How can I know?" is for those of you who have doubts about religious issues, perhaps you have sat in church for years and in decades and you know, you should know the answers to these questions. You should feel confident about your beliefs, but there're doubts that you have and quite frankly, you're embarrassed to voice those doubts. And even if you're sure about your own beliefs, you wouldn't know how to answer somebody who asked you some of the most basic questions if a friend, a co-worker, a child were to ask you, "How do you know the Bible is true? How do you know that Christianity is the right religion out of all of the religions in the world? How do you know there's such a thing as life after death"? Most of us wouldn't know how to answer those questions.
Now, there are some of you who are watching this series because you wanna be a better person, perhaps you even wanna be a religious person. But there's some doubts you have that are causing you to not embrace Christianity yet. If that's true of you, I wanna put you at ease in this first session by saying, my purpose is not to berate you or condemn you because of doubts. Having doubts is not a sin in fact, it's a prerequisite for a strong faith. And in this series, we're going to attempt to answer your doubts in a very compassionate and an intelligent way.
And today, in this first session, we're going to look at perhaps the most foundational question of all, and the question is, "How can I know, there is a God"? Why is it first of all, that we even who profess to be Christians sometimes have doubts about the existence of God? I believe there are at least five sources of doubt that cause us to question the existence of God. First of all, some of our doubts, are natural doubts, it's just hard to believe in anything or anyone we haven't seen before. Now, the good news is God not only understands our propensity to doubt his existence, he empathizes with our doubts.
In Jude, verse 22, God through Jude offers these words, he says, "Be merciful to those who doubt", be merciful to those who doubt. Those six words, give you some insight into how God views those of us who occasionally doubt his existence even though we've devoted our lives to serving him? Some of our doubts are philosophical doubt, some people doubt the existence of God on philosophical grounds. And perhaps the most cited philosophical argument against the existence of God is the presence of evil and suffering in the world.
The Scottish skeptic, David Hume, summarized the argument this way. He said, if God is able to prevent suffering and evil in the world, but doesn't prevent it, then it means he's evil. If God on the other hand is willing to prevent suffering in the world, but he's not able to prevent it, it means he is impotent. If God is both willing and able to prevent evil and suffering in the world, then how do you explain the existence of evil? It's a good question. And it's one we're gonna answer in a later session because there is another explanation to reconciling evil with a God who loves us.
Third, some of our doubts are experiential doubts, we all tend to be prisoners of our experience, don't we? And that transcends to the spiritual arena as well if we grew up in a house where God was not believed in, then we will be prone to disbelief in God as well. Now, of course, there are some notable exceptions to that. Some years ago, I invited William Murray, the son of the late atheist, Madalyn Murray O'Hair to come and address our congregation. As you know, William Murray became a Christian. And then his testimony, he described to our congregation what it is that led him to faith in Christ.
He said as he looked at his mother's unhappiness, and in consistencies in her lifestyle. It caused her to reject his mother's belief system, which in this case happened to be a disbelief in God. But there are experience that causes most of us to doubt the existence of God is an experience we all have from time to time and that is being disappointed by God, and the betrayal by a mate, the abuse of a parent, the reality of unanswered prayer causes many people to come to the conclusion there is no God.
Fourth, spiritual doubts are sometimes the source of our denial of the reality of God. We assume that most atheists are intellectual giants who have looked at all of the evidence, philosophical and scientific, and they have come to the conclusion that God cannot exist. We sometimes harbor the secret fear that atheists have discovered the smoking gun that disproves once and for all, the existence of God. I'll have to admit that sometimes I succumbed to that fear that atheists know something, I don't know. They're smarter than I am, they have some evidence I don't have and that's why they've rejected God.
I remember the first time I ever debated the president of the American Atheist Association on national television. I was very apprehensive about the debate. I wondered what fiery dart would he pull out of his intellectual arsenal, that he would use to shoot down before a national audience my belief in God? I need not worried. The fact is his arguments were tepid and unconvincing at best, and it only went to prove what I had believed and taught for a long time. The reason that atheists reject God is not for intellectual or philosophical reasons, atheists reject God because of spiritual and moral reasons.
The apostle Paul said that, in Romans 1, he reminded the Roman Christians that the evidence for God's existence is everywhere around us. Romans 1:18-20, the apostle says, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them, for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world, God's invisible attributes, that is his eternal power and his divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood through that which has been made, so that they are without excuse". Paul says the evidence for God's existence is so abundant in the cosmos, that there is no one on this planet who has an excuse for not believing in God.
As we'll see, in the next few moments, the evidence for God is everywhere around us. So the question is, why do people ignore this evidence? Paul answers that question in verse 21. He says, "For even though they", that is the pagan, the atheist, "knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations and their foolish heart was darkened". Although the atheist has received this knowledge of God, he has intentionally rejected that knowledge. Why has he rejected it? Because the atheist is smart enough to understand that if indeed he acknowledges there is a God who created him, then it's only reasonable that he is obligated to serve and obey that God. And the atheist is unwilling to do such a thing. And so for spiritual moral reasons, he refuses to believe in God.
You see, the popular thinking we have is that an atheist is some sincere seeker of truth, who's going around looking for some possible evidence for the existence of God. But as he looks around, he can't find any and so he is forced to give up his belief in God. Nothing could be further from the truth. The atheist is not a sincere follower of truth, he's not looking for God. An atheist has no more interest in finding God than a thief has in finding a policeman. He doesn't want to submit himself to God, that's why he rejects God. But not only does he reject the truth about God, Paul goes on to say the atheist replaces that truth with his own truth.
Verses 22 to 23 of Romans 1 Paul continues, "Professing to be wise", and all these new atheists, they love to profess to be wiser than any of us. "Professing to be wise they became fools. They exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for the image in the form of a corruptible man and of birds and a four footed animals and crawling creatures". He's talking about the replacement of the true God with idols or ideas that either eliminate God, or at least reduce God to a more manageable being someone to our liking.
When I read that phrase the image of birds, and four-footed animals, and crawling creatures, I immediately think of the theory of evolution. The theory of evolution is nothing more than another faith-based attempt to explain the origin of all things. The evolutionist is man's attempt to replace God as the necessary cause of all things created, or at least to reduce the role of God in creation to nothing but a passive bystander. Don't let anyone fool you, evolution is just as much of a religion as creationism is. Evolution has just as much to say about God as creationism does. Evolution is based on as many presuppositions as creationism is.
When it comes to the origin of the world, the origin of life the evolutionist comes to the table with this presupposition. He comes to the table with the presupposition there is no God and therefore I must find some other alternative, explanation for why things are. The creationist comes to the discussion by believing in the existence of God and believing Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth", but both points of view have something to say about God. Now, some people want to dismiss the idea completely replace the idea of God, other people simply want to reduce God to one they find more likable and manageable. Reminds me of the wag who said, in the beginning God created man in his own image, and ever since that time man has tried to return the favor. We sometimes wanna replace God or refashion God for spiritual reasons, not for intellectual reasons.
Fifth, empirical doubts sometimes cause us to question the existence of God. Now, I don't know of an atheist anywhere who's willing to admit that he is intentionally rejected all of the evidence that there is for God for spiritual reasons. Instead, what the atheist will do is try to convince you to believe that science has driven a final nail into theism, the belief in God. Richard Dawkins is another one of those new atheists and in his best selling book, "The God Delusion" Dawkins claims that it is impossible to be a scientific thinker and to be a theist, a believer in God. And to prove his claim he cites the 1998 study showing that only 7% of American scientists who belong to the national academy of sciences believe in a personal God. Only 7% of scientists who belong to the national academy of science, believe in a personal God.
That shakes some people up when they hear that statistic, because the average person who believes in God says to himself, "Okay, a. Scientist are smarter than I am, b. The majority of scientists don't believe in God, therefore, c. My belief in God must be based on fable rather than fact". But people who come to that conclusion miss two important points.
First of all, this study that Richard Dawkins cites, fails to identify the cause effect relationship between scientists and their beliefs. You see, we assume that the reason only 7% of scientists believe in God, we assumed that scientists started out with a belief in God and then they examined the evidence and had to come to the intellectual conclusion there is no God.
But how do we know that's the order it happened in? Could it also be the people who become scientists, by and large, are people who have rejected what the Bible says about God and they are pursuing instead another alternative explanation for the origin of why things are the way they are. It's the chicken or the egg theory which came first. That's important to understand when you come to this study.
Secondly, this idea that you can't reconcile belief in science with a belief in God, is built upon a redefinition of the word science, a redefinition that is based on circular reasoning. Let me explain what I mean. You know that science is built on what we call naturalism. Naturalism says nature is all that there is, that is only that which I can see observe, measure, test, replicate, that's the only thing that really is real nature is all that there is.
You learned in school about the scientific method, being able to observe things, and test things, and replicate things that's based on naturalism. Nature is all that there is. And that means in science the way it's defined today, in science there is no allowance for the super natural, super means above and beyond, supernatural means that which is above and beyond that which we can see, or measure, or test, or replicate. Now, when you understand that, you understand why such a self-imposed limitation, is the reason evolutionists have been highly successful in keeping their view as the only view that's presented in the classroom, and it's why they've been successful in kicking out any alternative explanation for the origin of all things in life.
You see, evolution is labeled a science, and science is based on the natural and therefore evolution is, "Science". But because creationism has a supernatural, an above nature explanation for why life came to begin with. Creationism is labeled as religion. So evolution is based on the natural that which I can see, measure or replicate. Creationism is based on the supernatural that which I can't see and that's why the evolutionist says, well, evolution belongs in the classroom and creationism belongs in the Sunday school classroom.
But wait just a minute, hold on here. What if just for the sake of argument, it could be proved one day that the origin of life can be traced to a very invisible, but very real Creator? Wouldn't that if in fact it were true, be a scientific explanation for why things are the way they are, as well as a religious explanation?
It's a profound mistake ladies and gentlemen to allow scientists to get away with equating science with reality and then limiting the definition of science to only that which I can see, and measure, and replicate. Because if you allow scientists to equate science with reality, and then you say science is only what I see, measured, replicate, then you have to say, reality is only what I can see, measuring, and replicate, and therefore, there is no allowance for the supernatural. The fact is, scientists engage in circular reason they start with a presupposition, there is no God, there is no allowance for the supernatural. Therefore, any explanation I come up with has to be based on the natural.
Philosopher Alvin Plantinga demonstrates the absurdity of such a circular argument. He says, "It is like the drunk who insisted on looking for his lost car keys only under the streetlight on the grounds that the light was better there. In fact, it would go the drunk one better, it would insist that because the keys would be hard to find in the dark, they have to be under the light". Now, that's what the evolutionist says, no, there can't be any explanation for the way things are out there in something I can't see. It has to be in what I can see. And therefore, I'm gonna cut off any serious inquiry to another explanation for the origin of all things.
And that brings up an interesting question, can we prove the existence of God? I have to concede the atheists are correct here. We cannot prove that God exists, but the evidence argue strongly for the existence of God. And there are a lot of people it doesn't matter what evidence you present, they are not going to accept the evidence that there is a God. A lot of people don't wanna be confused with the facts. Can we prove God exists? No, but the atheist cannot prove that God doesn't exist. Mortimer Adler, the famed philosopher and legal scholar says that it is absolutely impossible to prove a negative existential proposition.