quite a few debates
about the existence of God
between theists and atheists.
And what seems
to be lacking
on both sides
is an explicit definition
of the word "God".
a member of the audience
will ask about this,
but the panelists
avoid the question
or not give a satisfactory answer.
Yet how can you prove
the existence or not
of something that is
not well defined?
It seems the challenge is to
define God in a way
that makes it easy to see
that God is responsible
and establishes a foundation
for moral law.
_ The atheists will usually appeal to science and say that there is no evidence for the existence of a being responsible for everything that happens in the world. And the theist will appeal to reason that God is the first cause. _ What seems to be implied by the atheist is that God is some sort of personality with a will and intent to make things happen. They seem to be thinking of God as if he were like the ancient gods of Greece or Rome. _ And since no physical evidence of such a being has been recorded by scientists, they claim that God does not exist. The theists seem to imply that God is a _ Principle of reason responsible for creation and the laws of nature. The question becomes is God a personality or a principle. Is God a concrete being or an abstract concept?
_ The properties traditionally attributed to God are that God knows everything, He exists everywhere, and he has all power. In other words, God is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. Others go further to include that God is the perfect being, all good, and even an infinite being. _ And we are told that God is love, and that God's word is truth. The question is what kind of being or principle could fulfill all these expectations? And how could you prove it exists?
_ I think it will be difficult to prove that an Infinite Being with infinite power actually exists. How do you define Being in that case? How would you observe or measure this kind of power? _ And you are also going to have trouble defining perfect, good, and loving. These seem to be subjective terms that attempt to define God with terms of endearment. _ That may be very flattering and prove the kind of virtues you honor. But it does no good to define something in terms that are themselves not well defined. This only leads atheists to argue that if God were so all powerful and all loving, as you say, then how is it possible for evil to exist in the world as it does. _ Either God is not all powerful, or he is not all loving that he should allow such evil, or he does not exist in the first place. The counter argument is that God is perfect and God is in heaven. _ We are not perfect, so we do not live in heaven, yet. It's a work in progress. And he is not done with us. Eventually we expect to get there. But since we're not there yet, the hope for a future heaven is not proof of God's existence to the atheists.
_ Originally, it seems that the concept of gods were invented by men in order to provide an explanation for things that happened in the world. There were gods of the sky, gods of thunder, gods of the sea, gods of the stars, gods of the underworld, gods of love, and gods of war. _ And elaborate stories were concocted of how all these various gods interacted to explain why the world works the way it does. These interactions were meant to explain the cycles of night and day, sun and moon, the movement of the stars and planets, the seasonal crop cycle, and why nations went to war with each other.
_ Eventually it was realized that conflict between the gods could only result in contradictions in nature. But since facts we observe either are or are not, this meant that there could not be many gods contradicting each other. _ There must be only one God responsible for what happens in the world. And this was offered as the only reason for the universe that was always consistent with itself. _ The atheists, however, would have us reject the existence of this one God for the same reason that we would reject the rest. The theists still accept this concept of one God as the reason for why the universe exists.
_ So the debate continues, with both sides arguing their case as reasonably as they know how. The implication of this is that somehow the existence of God can be established by reason and logic. In a debate, reason has the final authority to determine what exists or not. _ Both sides admit this or there could be no argument, debate, or discussion. Whatever God is, we want to know how that stands to reason. For it seems that it is reason that has the final authority to establish what exists.
_ So I am convinced that God is reason itself. He is the logic that establishes truth. He is the Principle of logical consistency that holds all the facts in reality together so that nothing that exists contradicts anything else that exists. _ Here, I am using the word logic to mean more than just the rules of deduction used to construct valid arguments. There is something in the universe that ensures that things over here don't contradict things over there. _ Everything affects and is affected by everything else. And the laws of physics are the same everywhere at all times.
_ I know of no reason, however, why this necessarily has to be the case. I suppose we could have a world where cause sometimes had an effect but never always. Can you imagine a world in which there were no consistent patterns, _ in which rulers randomly changed size and shape, clocks whose rates never stayed the same, objects that never maintained the same size, color, brightness, or weight? This would make it impossible to write down any laws of physics. And we would never know what to think or believe or how to behave.
_ But fortunately reality contains things with consistent properties that can be described with propositions that are true. And because there is a cause and effect relationship _ between one circumstance and another, we can find patterns and discern the laws of nature. So scientists try to find mathematical equations that describe the way things propagate from one state to the next.
_ The underlying assumption of science is that there is a logical explanation for everything that happens in the world, and there is a reason for why things are the way they are. Their jobs is to find those reasons and explanations that describe all phenomena in the world. _ So you will never hear a scientist say that something in the universe is not logically consistent with everything else. For they strongly believe that there is some principle of logical consistency making sure that the laws of nature are the same everywhere at all times.
_ Theists also believe that there is a reason for everything in the world. It's just that theists believe that God is the reason why everything exists. And they think that the logical consistency between facts includes faith and deeds being consistent with a person's ultimate fate.
_ Yet, it's not much of an explanation to say God did it if God is not defined in the conversation. But if you say that God is Reason Itself, then you are agreeing with scientists that assumes there is a reason why things are the way they are. We are basically saying the same thing.
_ It seems this principle of logic that maintains the consistency of facts exists everywhere at all times and controls everything that happens in the universe. From it everything that we know can be derived. And in this sense, it knows all things. _ And since this Principle is always logically correct, it is by definition always fair and just in dealing with people. And from it all the laws of nature and morality can be derived. So we can understand that this Principle of logical consistency fulfills our expectations of God in the traditional sense.
_ And if we define God as logical consistency, then you cannot argue that there is no God. For you cannot argue that there is no logical consistency in the world. It would be a contradiction of terms to argue that there is no logical consistency. _ For if nothing were logically consistent, then neither is your argument. The underlying premise of anyone who argues or debates is that logic has authority to establish what is true in that case. _ You are assuming that logic has control of the facts in the universe and in your thoughts. Anyone who thinks otherwise is contradicting himself and is invalidating his own opinion.
_ And with this definition there can only be one God. For if there were two gods free to create their own separate facts, and if they were independent of each other, then they would disagree with each other at some point about something. _ One god would want there to be a star at this point, but the other god would not want a star there. One god may want to protect a particular man, but the other god would not want that. And so they are bound to be in conflict with each other about something. _ But if there were many gods all in absolute agreement about absolutely everything everywhere at all times, that would be indistinguishable from there being only one God. _ For there would be no differences to distinguish one from another. So if all the facts are consistent with each other, then there must be only one God responsible for all things in the world.
_ God himself is not any of the facts we observe. Instead, He is the force of principle that controls all the facts. The evidence that God exists is the consistency we see in all the facts. That, of course, is a matter of faith. _ We can't actually see all the facts in the universe to confirm that they are all indeed consistent with each other. _ That's just an assumption we make so we can make progress in our understanding of God's purposes in reality. For you cannot make progress in understanding if you start with the assumption that there are inconsistencies in the world.
_ When we consider the universe as a whole, we can ask what it all proves. What is it evidence for? If there is anything that the universe as a whole proves, then that is the ultimate purpose for which the universe exists. _ Then that is God's plan for creation and his plan for you also since you are a part of it. However, it's generally not part of the scientific method to consider the reason or purpose for the universe as a whole. _ It's not part of their paradigm because they are only concerned about how parts of the universe interact with other parts. They have no theory of existence that includes a reason for why it all exists in the first place, or what its ultimate purpose might be. _ So atheists will adopt the scientific view and say that there is no real meaning or purpose for why the universe exists - there is no meaning to life, no ultimate goal to be achieved, except what you want to make of it for yourself for personal reasons.
_ Theists, however, are more free to consider things in abstraction, life in general, the universe as a whole, the ultimate purpose for existence. For example, truth corresponds to statements that describe what actually exists, and false corresponds to statements that describe what does not exist. _ And this is true for the universe as a whole. The purpose of the universe is to represent that which is true. The purpose of the universe is to separate what is true from what is false. The universe separates true from false by allowing only what is true to exist. _ And since we are part of the universe we share its purpose. Therefore, the purpose of human life is to distinguish true from false. And the way that events develop with time _ can only demonstrate the process by which true is distinguished from false, since it is the process by which things come into being. So the things we do and the events in our lives demonstrate the process by which we prove ourselves truthful or false.
_ Yet the principles of reason and logic determine what is true or false. And they determine what will exist in the world. They determine what is true, and they determine what is false. And they are the process which guides the way events in the universe unfold with time. _ And if logic guides the universe to make a distinction between true and false, then we should expect the universe to manifest two states of being, one state to represent truth and another state to represent false. _ But if only what is true describes what exists, how can false exist so that logic is plainly seen to be working in the universe? What is the process by which things prove to be true or prove to be false?
_ When we refer to things in the universe, they usually consist of a conjunction of many parts. If those parts work to hold itself together as a unified whole, then we describe that unit with a proposition that is true since it continues to exist. _ But if those parts have worked to blow it apart, then we would describe that thing with a proposition that is false since it no longer exists. All the parts must hold together in order to represent a statement that is true. _ The sure sign that the existence of something can be considered reliably true is that it withstands destructive forces. If it endures trials and testing, then we rely on it and count on its existence as always being true. _ But if its construction is the very thing that causes it to be destroyed, then its existence will prove false. In other words, true describes things that continue to exist, and false describes what is being destroyed.
_ Of course, the most obvious things that make statements of truth or not are human beings. People have minds in which they discern the facts and what they mean in their lives. In their souls they construct beliefs about the world that are either true or false. _ And though your beliefs are completely abstract, they are nevertheless real. Your faith and beliefs can be considered real since they are affected by what happens in the world, and they cause things to happen because they motivate your deeds. _ But why should it be so reasonable that things like souls and beliefs should inevitably arise in the universe? What principle of logic could dictate this?
_ If the universe is governed by reason and logic, then we should expect that this logic and its internal workings will eventually become obvious in the world. _ As more events occur with time, more and more evidence accumulates that demonstrates the reality of its governing principles. So this is the purpose of existence - to reveal the ultimate principle that governs its existence. And if this is its purpose, then ultimately entities that represent that purpose will be manifested in such a completely pure form that it can no longer be denied. _ In other words, since God is logic, and he is Almighty, he is responsible for everything that happens. And if he is in control of all things, then reality will reflect the nature of God in the course of what He allows to happens in the world. _ But God is different than any physical thing. He is the cause of all it does, but he is completely abstract from it. So we should expect this truth also to be expressed in the form of some entities in the world, entities whose actions are caused by abstract concerns about what is true or false. _ These abstract beliefs about truth are formed in the hearts and minds of people. Abstract Reason governs how nature behaves, and abstract beliefs in the minds of people govern how they behave in the world. In this way the character of God is reflected in nature, and we are made in the image of God.
_ God is the logic that determines true and false. And God is the one in control of it all. So we should expect truth to be distinguished from false with ever greater evidence in the world that he controls. _ So as part of that plan humans have emerged who hold beliefs that are true or false. And as they argue about what is right and wrong, they commit ever more faith to their cause. _ They stake ever more of their effort, honor, and life on what they believe is right. And ultimately their state of being in glory or shame will vindicate them or prove them wrong.
_ So if both true and false will be embodied in the lives of men, then we should expect that there will eventually come one person who completely represents what is true and just, and another who represents what is false. _ And the world will be judged when they confront each other face to face because reality cannot be ruled by what is both true and false. The rest of us will be judged by whose side we are on. _ And in this way the logic that judges what is true and false will be demonstrated by the judgement of God when he declares men to be right or wrong.
_ It's traditional that the man of truth is called Christ, and the man of falsehood is called the antichrist. But the question is how can we recognize the man of truth and the man of lies? What kind of deeds can we expect to happen in their lives?
_ We should expect that the Christ will prove completely devoted to what is right. And he will dedicate his life to upholding the truth. For the existence of those who uphold the truth will be justified because they will be proven right. _ And the life of those who believe the truth will eventually be vindicated in the course of time. So he will proclaim the truth of eternal life since the ultimate truth justifies ultimate life. _ And since the truth withstands every test of it, his faith will withstand the severest test. And he will be vindicated with eternal life when he rises from the dead after dying for his cause. _ So his life will represent the truth itself, and everyone else will be judged because of it.
_ But the man of deception will claim to believe in eternal life. Yet when tested, his faith will prove to be false. _ He will forsake the teachings of righteousness and seek to glorify himselfinstead. And when he is forced to face the truth of God, he will come to an end that is worse than death.
_ And now there is evidence in Scripture for this definition of God and this perspective on how logic will be manifested in life. As for God's eternal existence, all-encompassing power, and all knowing nature, Isaiah 40:28 sums it up by saying, _ "Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom." As for his Omnipresent nature, Proverbs 15:3 says, _ "The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good." And as for God being reason itself, we have Proverbs 3:19, "By wisdom the Lord laid the earth's foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place". Psalm 136:5 says, _ "who by his understanding made the heavens, His love endures forever." And there's a tradition in Scripture to personify wisdom. See for example, Proverbs chapters 8 and 9, where I take wisdom and understanding to be the same as reason.
_ This tradition continues in the New Testament speaking of Christ. Colossians 2:3 says, "in whom (Christ) are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." And in 1 Corinthians 1:24, "..., Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God." _ And again in 1 Corinthians 1:30 it says, "... Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God ..." And this is made more explicit in John 1:1 and 14, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." _ And, "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." The use of "Word" in these verses comes from the Greek word "logos", from which we also get the word logic. So here we see that God is the logic or reasoning that creates and sustains everything, _ and which is manifested in human form as the Christ as part of God's purpose to reveal himselfin nature. It cannot be avoided. Since God controls all things, His nature will be revealed in creation.
_ This interpretation is also strengthened when Scripture says that God's word is truth along with saying Christ is the truth or the Word of God. In Psalm 119:160 it says, "All your words are true; ..." In John 17:17 Jesus prays to God saying, _ "Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth." And in John 14:6 Jesus says of himself, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." And Revelation 19:13 says of Jesus when he returns, _ "He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God." So here we see that Jesus represents the truth itself. And what we would expect of any proposition that is true, we should expect to find some fulfillment in the life of Christ. _ Any attempt to falsify a proposition that's true will be reversed and not succeed. So any attempt to nullify the life of Christ will be reversed as well. So we should expect that the Christ will rise from the dead. And this is meant to serve as proof that Jesus represents the very Truth of God. _ As Hebrews 1:3 says, "The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word." Colossians 1:15 says, "The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation." _ And Colossians 2:9 says, "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, ...";
_ And likewise we read in Scripture that the antichrist represents falsehood and deception. See for example, 1 John 2:22, "Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist - denying the Father and the Son." _ And Revelation 13:5 says, "The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies ...", where blasphemies are lies about God. And 2 Thessalonians 2:9 says, "The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie." _ It should be understood in these verses that the antichrist is the same as the beast who is the same as the lawless one. And as for the antichrist once claiming to have faith and then proving false, 1 John 2:18-19.
_ Since everything is logical, and logic determines what is true or false, we have the expectation that this will also be applied to us and that we will be judged as right or wrong. And Scripture predicts that this will be fulfilled when God will appear and judge the world. _ This is confirmed in Scriptures such as Matthew 25:31-32, Rev 16:14, Zephaniah 3:8, and Joel 3:2. And just as something is understood to be false when the truth is revealed, so the antichrist will be put to shame at the coming of Christ in glory. This is seen in Scriptures such as 2 Thessalonians 2:8, and Rev 19:19. _ And everyone else will be judged like a proposition as true or false based on whose side they are on, as seen in Rev 20:4, 14:9-11, and 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12.
_ However, some object because they don't understand how a human being can possibly be God Almighty. How can a human with limited capacity who is stuck in time and space also be Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnipresent? _ How can Christians say that Jesus is God? After all, Jesus never said, "I am God." He did say, "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30). But then again he also prayed for his disciples, "... that they may be one as we are one" (John 17:11). _ Besides, how could anyone possibly prove that he is God? How could he prove that he knows everything? He might prove that he knows everything asked of him... by limited man. So that can't be equivalent to everything. _ Or he might prove that he has power over everything you perceive. But you can't perceive everything. And someone standing in front of you can't also be everywhere. So if a claim is not really provable there's no reason to argue the case.
_ In fact, I'd have to be God himself in order to confirm that someone else had the attributes of God. I'd have to exist everywhere to confirm that this person also existed everywhere. I'd have to know everything before I could confirm that this person also knew everything. _ And I'd have to be all powerful to know this person had as much power as I do. So I will never be able to confirm some other person is actually God. The best I can do is to continue to trust that there is a God who holds the universe together and works things out for my salvation. _ And this allows me to expect certain events in the future because they are consistent with his purposes. And if someone should appear in history and fulfill those expectations, then I can understand and be satisfied that God is working in history towards the ultimate goal of salvation for those who believe.
_ It seems, though, that it was not until Paul started preaching among the gentiles did Jesus become known as God. "He seems to be advocating foreign gods", said the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers about Paul (Acts 17:18). _ And the description of the life of Christ would have met the definition of a god that the Greeks would have understood. For Jesus was described as an immortal being of great moral character who now lives in heaven and has the power to judge the living and the dead. _ Such a person would have required the Greeks to worship him. And so they would have considered Jesus to be a god as they understood the concept. If the things said about Jesus are true, then he certainly is God in the Greek sense of the word.
_ Yet obviously Jesus' human body is not God, since it can only exist in one place at one time. As Jesus himselfsaid, "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing" (John 6:63). _ So in what sense can we consider Jesus to be God? What attribute of God is clearly demonstrated to be an attribute of Jesus only? If not his body, then it would have to be an attribute of his Spirit.
_ We think of God as perfectly just and always right. He is always faithful to hold the universe together and to make sure that the consequences follow. In human terms we see this as God having a will or intention to do what is right. _ He has a firm determination to uphold the truth of reality. He is devoted to righteousness. He is dedicated to justice. He loves his creation, and he always desires to benefit his people. _ This will and intention are characteristics of what we call his Spirit. It is described as the Holy Spirit because he is devoted only to upholding the truth and doing what's right. This Spirit is the essential nature of God because it is the very thing that motivates all his actions.
_ And yet we can see this same Spirit in Jesus, motivating his efforts in the world. For Scripture tells us that Jesus did marvelous deeds of righteousness, healing the sick, raising the dead, and speaking the truth of eternal life. _ And he continued his efforts even in spite of rejection and threats from the authorities of his day. Scripture tells us that he was even willing to die on a Roman cross if it meant that he could continue to do these great works of compassion to encourage our faith. _ See for example, Mark 1:33-34, Matthew 15:29-31, Luke 13:31-32, and Matthew 16:21. So it seems obvious that Jesus is motivated by the Spirit of God. For he was completely devoted to upholding the truth. _ He was sincere in his commitment to do what is right. His love for righteousness was completely faithful to the end. His life represents complete devotion to the love of God.
_ And this same Spirit can be in those who believe, though never to the fullest extent as it is in Jesus. We can recognize His Spirit in us when we begin to love God and appreciate his faithfulness and his devotion to doing what's right. _ His Spirit teaches us that Jesus has proven himself worthy of honor and praise. He teaches us that we are not so virtuous by comparison and that we should submit to the truth and repent. _ God is faithful and just to forgive those who repent. For Jesus gave his life for the cause of love, and God raised him from the dead. _ His efforts were on our behalf, and God showed his approval with the resurrection. So this teaches us that God really cares for us and that we can also be saved if we repent and turn our hearts to him.
_ Yes, the Spirit of God is sincere love for truth, faithfulness, and righteousness. _ He is the love that Christ has for the Father. He is the love that God has for the Son. _ He teaches us that Jesus will one day be glorified, and this will cause the great judgment to come when everyone is forced to respond.
_ That the Spirit is God can be seen in 2 Cor 3:17-18, and Phil 1:19. That we are given the Spirit in order to worship God is seen in _ Ro 5:5, 8:5, 1 Cor 12:3, Eph 5:19, Phil 3:3, and Jude 1:20. That the Spirit teaches us about God is seen in _ John 14:26, 15:26, 16:7-15, 1 Cor 2:10-14, Eph 1:17, 3:5, Col 1:9, Hebrews 10:15, 1 John 3:24, and Rev 19:10. _ And that the Spirit is also given to us to teach others is seen in Acts 1:8, 4:31, Colossians 3:16, 1 Peter 1:12, and Rev 2:7.
_ God is the ultimate cause of all things, Christ is the ultimate glory to be revealed. And the Holy Spirit is the desire one has for the other to glorify and justify His existence. All three must exist before there can be logical completeness.
_ In conclusion, it seems atheists think we are just flinging around meaningless terms as a pretentious excuse to claim some exaggerated sense of entitlement. _ But I believe I've shown that there is valuable philosophical content to our beliefs. When we look closely into Scripture, we can see that God is defined as the logic that holds the universe together as a consistent whole. _ Since we understand logic to be dealing with true and false, this allows us to expect certain events to unfold in destiny. We expect people to arise who act according to their beliefs which are either true or false. _ We expect there to come a Christ whose life itself will represent truth. We expect an antichrist to come who represent deception. We expect a great judgment to come to decide who is right and who is wrong. And we expect there will come a heaven and hell as the final disposition of the universe.
_ I hope this has been an encouragement to you and that you find some comfort in knowing the truth_. _ .
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