A popular skeptical notion about spiritual things is that there is no proof of God. But is that a reasonable statement?
What does the skeptic mean by proof? Does he mean strict proof, mathematical proof or proof beyond a doubt? If that is what the skeptic means, then the skeptic will always remain a skeptic, because that kind of proof is unattainable.
There is nothing inherently bad or wrong in being skeptical. Skepticism or doubt is not a sin as some might suppose. “Doubting Thomas” was a disciple of Jesus after all! Honest skepticism is not a problem. In fact, honest skepticism is healthy; it drives us to test truth claims and weed out falsity.
The demand for strict proof that God exists, however, is not honest skepticism. While we might attain to some proof beyond a “reasonable” doubt, strict proof, mathematical proof, or proof beyond any doubt is impossible. I will try to explore why that is in this blog article.
To begin with, if God made the universe, He is necessarily different than the universe. If He created space, time, matter and energy, then He must not be limited to those things; He must exist outside and beyond space, time and matter. In fact, Christians believe that God is spaceless, timeless and immaterial, and we see those characteristics evidenced throughout the Bible from beginning to end.
How could we prove Him, then, by means that are limited to space, time and matter?
Christians believe that God is immaterial; He is Spirit. He is transcendent, eminent, and he is everywhere in the material world simultaneously. God is not physical. He isn’t made up of atoms, molecules or any of the “stuff” of this world. He isn’t even energy, as some suppose, because physics tells us that energy and matter are inter-convertible.
Insisting on empirical, scientific proof of God is a futile effort, then. God can’t be weighed, measured, or quantified in any way if He is beyond the realm of the material world, which is the only realm that science can explore.
Science is, by definition, the study of the material world, but God, by definition, is not part of the material world and, therefore, not subject to the laws of science. You could no more measure God than use a Geiger counter to measure the length of a football field or a yard stick to measure the speed of sound. They aren’t the right instruments.
The instruments we have to measure the material world cannot measure an immaterial God.
We can’t measure or know God through purely empirical evidence, but God is is not unique in that aspect. God isn’t the only thing we can’t know through purely empirical evidence. Mathematics, philosophy, logic, beauty, love, justice and many other “things” are beyond our ability to measure and prove with empirical means, but we don’t doubt (strictly) that they are real.
We accept mathematical truths almost axiomatically, but we can’t point to the number 7 anywhere in the material world. We can’t prove that the number 7 is real in a direct, empirical way.
How do you prove the identify of fundamental philosophical proofs, like A = A? We can’t, yet, we believe that fundamental philosophical truths are real because the work. In fact, we use those truths all the time in our every day lives; and we take for granted that they are true. You could say that we experience that they are true such that we don’t even question them in our daily routines.
Justice, love, beauty and other intangibles cannot be empirically proven by scientific method, but we universally accept them as realities. These “unscientific” truths not only affect our daily lives at the most basic levels, some people make things like justice, beauty, love, etc. the most important things.
People devote their lives to the notions of love, justice, beauty and other intangibles, but none of them can even be proven empirically to exist. That doesn’t mean they are not real.
In the same way, the fact that we can’t prove God in an empirical way doesn’t mean there is no proof. Throughout the world there are stories of miracles and encounters with phenomena that are not easily explained by the scientific method. People all over the world, in all generations have had spiritual experiences that cannot be explained empirically. Christians are convinced that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, and many people around the world in all generations and localities have claimed to have experienced another “world” or realm that God “inhabits” that is more or less accessible or knowable to us in the ways that love, beauty and other intangibles are experienced and known by us.
Near death experiences point strongly to something beyond this world. That doesn’t mean that we have to accept all of them as probative or viable accounts of other worldly encounters. We need to be skeptical, but some bear strong marks of authenticity. The fact that they seem to occur universally is a strong indicator of another world or realm or reality at work.
Our universe has marks and characteristics of intelligence. Humans and even some animals are personal and intelligent beings. Our very existence suggests that the source of our existence is personal and intelligent. Where did personality and intelligence originate if not from an intelligent and personal source? Where does our sense of self, love, purpose and inclination to worship come from?
A universe with these kinds of characteristics is more likely to originate in a source that is intelligent, personal, and purposeful than from a random, undirected, purposeless and inanimate source. A universe such as ours with characteristics of intelligence, personality and purpose, is more likely to have originated from an intelligent, personal, and purposeful source than from a source with none of those characteristics.
Christians believe that the universe was created by an intelligent, personal and purposeful God who is eminent and transcendent, who is capable of being present within the time, space, matter, and energy of this world, but is not bound or limited by it. Christians speak to experiences and encounters with such a God. More specifically, Christians claim to experience God through Jesus Christ.
Christians believe that Jesus was God introducing Himself to His creation by taking on the form of a human and living among us. Christians believe that God demonstrated for us through his death in human flesh and subsequent resurrection in the same body that another life is available to us after this life ends. Christians believe what Jesus taught, that we may access God now through His Spirit which we can accept “into our hearts” and with whom we can have communion and relationship. Indeed, that is the very experience of Christians all over the world, in all geographical locations, nations, tribes and tongues.
A skeptic may retort, “Well, I haven’t experienced that!” But, that isn’t proof that refutes another person’s experience. That fact that one person hasn’t personally encountered God is not proof that another person has not experienced God. If we didn’t have a good record of the phenomenon of aurora the borealis (the Northern Lights) in science books, National Geographic, on the Internet, and in other places, one person describing them might find a very skeptical audience from someone who had never seen any lights in the sky other than the sun, the moon, the stars and an occasional comet. But, that doesn’t mean the skepticism would be well grounded.
A response that, “I haven’t experienced it, therefore, it isn’t real”, may be nothing more than admitting a lack of experience or knowledge of the subject.
That we cannot prove God from empirical science doesn’t mean that empirical science offers no proof of God. Strict, mathematical proof beyond any doubt may not be attainable, but there is proof of the kind we should expect if God is what Christians believe Him to be.
We are barely scratching the surface here. This is really only an introduction to the subject. In later articles, I will attempt to explore evidence that God exists from various scientific and philosophical angles.