Thursday, May 10, 2007

Can The Existence of God be Proven?

Last night I watched on ABC's Nightline as they covered a debate between two Christian evangelists (Ray Comfort and Kirk Cammeron) and two atheists (Brian Sapient and "Kelly"). I was a bit disappointed by the fact that they really showed next to nothing of the debate itself. Perhaps 5 minutes of it total even though the debate was well over an hour or perhaps closer to two hours in length. I intend to see if i can find the debate in its entirety on I suspect it will be there.

However, I saw enough to make a few comments. First of all, it strikes me yet once again, how angry atheist usually are. I don't say this as a blanket statement, but as a general consensus of what I personally have seen and heard when debating with or listening to others debate "atheists." Basically it is my opinion that in 95% of the cases when you run into someone who claims to be an atheist, it comes down to the fact that they don't really not believe there is a God, they simply, openly, loudly, vocally, HATE God.

The report last night showed a time where the audience was allowed to ask questions and, oh my, were there ever some angry atheists. One lady, practically screaming at Ray Comfort, wanted to know how there could be a God because cancer exists. When Comfort started to talk about the problem of suffering, she got infuriated because he said "suffering" rather then "cancer" so he rephrased it for her. Clearly this woman had lost a loved one to cancer, or at least I would assume. Comfort did a good job of explaining why there is "cancer" and "suffering" in the world due to the fallen creation from Genesis 3. Not as though it was a satisfactory answer for this lady.

The two atheist who were actually debating were, to say the least, extremely rude. Scoffing at the two Christians as they shared their views. Basically just being antagonistic, no surprise. These two are the ones who started the movement calling for atheist to "commit blasphemy of the Holy Spirit" by denying Him and say that they aren't afraid. And then posting the recorded video of themselves on an Internet web-site. Not that these people actually have a clue about what blasphemy of the Holy Spirit really is.

From my perspective, what little I got to see last night on "Nightline", the atheist in the debate as well as in the crowd, showed their true colors. There is no sense of respect for others, there is extreme anger against the very notion of God, (which only supports the Bible's position about fallen man, read Roman 1-3) they have to make outlandish claims and reject plain reason to deny even the possibility of God.

That said, I want to offer my critique on the Christian view point that was extended last night. First let me say that I love and appreciate Ray and Kirk. On the whole (from what I saw) they did a descent job. However, here is where I disagree with the position my two brothers in Christ put forward.

Comfort and Cammeron used the famous "proofs" for the existence of God that Thomas Aquinas made famous. Things like the Ontilogical argument (The necessity of a perfect being) and Telelogical argument (if there is a watch, there is a watchmaker, if there is creation, there is a creator) as well as the moral argument (man instictively knows right from wrong, because there is a divine law giver.)

I believe that such arguments have their place. These are often referred to as "Classical Apologetics." If someone say he is a classical apologist, then he probably means that he utilizes these arguments. Here is the problem with these arguments though, they give some logical reasons to believe that there is a God, they make sense, however they don't necessarily prove the God of the Bible. They give some reason to believe in omnipotent being, but they don't single out YAHWEH as that omnipotent being. So these "proofs", on their own, are not enough. Now I will say that Comfort and Cammeron do point to reasons to believe that the God of the Bible is the true God, and they have some good evidential arguments for that too.

But ultimately, here is the real problem. Can anyone "prove the existence of God?" No. I don't think we can. In fact I think only God can prove that He is God directly to someone. The problem is that man is completely tainted by sin. When these "classical proofs" were first being formed, they were largely being formed by Roman Catholic apologists who believed that man could come to a true understanding and knowledge of God by what is revealed in creation. And therefore it was largely believed that God's existence could be proved by plain reason and pointing towards creation and moral arguments such as the ones still used often today. But according to Romans 1:18-23 man is so messed up because of sin they are unable to see what God has plainly put right in front of their faces!

The Scripture says:

"18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles."

According to Scripture if it weren't for sin, everyone would recognize the one true God merely by looking out their window at His creation, but sin has darkened their "foolish hearts." What does that mean? It means that we can give 1,000,000,000,000 and 1 reasons to believe that there is a God and then give that many more to believe that this omnipotent God is the God revealed in the Bible, and they will still not believe. Not because these truths are not self evident, not because they don't make sense, but because they don't make sense to a person who has been totally corrupted by sin in their mind body and soul. Aquinas was wrong. Man cannot come to know God by plain reason. God must shine light on darkened hearts.

The honest truth is, we must hold the Bible to be self evident as proof that God exists and is who He reveals Himself to be in the pages of Scripture. John 10 tells us that Christ's sheep will hear his voice. We preach the word and those whom God chooses to save He gives His Spirit and they follow the voice of the Good Shepherd. But without God's action in the life of a sinner, there is nothing you can say or do that will "prove" to them that God exists. The best apologetic against atheism is to give reason to believe in God and that this God is the one the Bible speaks of and then preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and trust the Holy Spirit to convict sinners and make them new in Christ and give them faith.

I've heard Ray Comfort say that people need to "pray and listen to the voice of their conscience" to find out what is true. I would definitely have to refute that as a God idea. Our conscience is corrupted by sin as well, it could very easily tell us something untrue. But I do agree that telling a person their need for Christ and telling them to read the Scriptures and ask God to reveal Himself to them is a good thing, but let's leave our subjective conscience out of it. That's what the LDS do after all, and people follow after their false doctrine. It is the word of God that will convict people of their need for Christ alongside the Holy Spirit.

Can anyone prove God? No, not to sinful humanity. But God can and does make Himself known. Jesus calls to His sheep and His sheep hear His voice.


Van Edwards said...

Like you, I wasn't overly thrilled about this debate. I watched the online version which apparently shows a lot more than what they showed on TV.
If this were a debate of manners, then Kirk and Ray won hands down. Several times, "Kelly" made it clear she had no intention of believing in the God of the Bible. And the only "evidence" they presented was that religious men are still sinful.
I was also impressed with Kirk's handling of evolution. But neither side really displayed any evidence that I think would sway either side away from their belief system. Ray started down this road but wasn't able to finish, but it takes faith to be an atheist.
It's also unfortunate that Ray did exactly what he said he wouldn't do - use faith and the Bible in his argument. The atheists were right to call him out for that.
But either way, I agree with you: you simply will not prove God's existence to sinful man. His (or her) eyes and ears are shut to the truth and can only be opened by God Himself. I can only pray that happens.
By the way, thanks for your kind words on my blog.

risen_soul said...

Thanks for visiting. I really enjoy your blog and put a link here for it. I always like to hear Christians who take the time to think deeply about any given subject. We have plenty of surfacey junk out there, so it's a rare but good thing to come across a blog like yours.

I think one of the major mistakes that Kirk and Ray make is that they say you can prove God, especially without Scripture and faith. You cannot, and so they set themselves up to fail. Not that the atheist's case was by any means very strong for their position either.

I would like those folks to debate James White sometime and see how well they fair.

Van Edwards said...

I agree. If not Dr. White, then Ravi Zacharias or someone of that caliber. But here's the thing: I don't think White or Zacharias would have made the claim that Ray did - that he would provide incontrovertible proof without scripture or faith. And, personally, I don't think it would have been on TV if it weren't for Ray's claim.

risen_soul said...

You're absolutely right. In fact it probably wouldn't have been on tv if it weren't for the fact that "Hey wasn't that the kid from 'Growing Pains'?"

Nath @ Reformed Geek said...

Thanks for your post. After your comments on my site I was curious to read your thoughts after you got to see the debate.

I think there is a lot of truth in what you say: Ray can prove there is 'a' God, but not 100% that it must be the God of the bible.

I have yet to see the debate, so I was curious whether they weaved the gospel through their presentation? I know they normally take any opportunity to do so.

Hidden One said...

I think now is the time to bring ofrth the old, half joking definition of agnostics and atheists:

"Agnostics don't know if there is a God. Athiests know there is a God, and hate Him (for it)."