Seven Ways to Approach the Existence of God
Believe it or not, many Jewish people say they don't need to believe God exists to be Jewish. That's because for many Jewish people, ethnicity and culture is what defines their Jewishness. Here is just one of several articles that dicusses this issue. Note that this Jewish person says that losing belief in God gave them a new reason to practice Jewish customs. How about that?
Thus, the attempt to discuss passages in the Jewish Scriptures about the Messiah with Jewish people can be a fruitless enterprise. After all, why try to use Scripture with someone who doesn't think there is a God who has spoken into history and revealed who He is in a written text?
But how do we know God exists? Over the years, when I have been asked this question, I used to just jump to an argument for God. I would sit down and try to explain it in detail to the individual. I have now decided to take a different approach and back up: I ask the person “How should we approach the existence of God?” or, “What method should we use?” Now I know that when you ask a Christian, Jewish person or Muslim, and Mormon as well how they know what they believe is true, they might just say, “I have faith.” This should cause us to stop and ask if that is an adequate answer. It probably won’t go very far in a skeptical and pluralistic culture. So in this post I want to discuss some of the various ways we can approach the existence of God. I am well aware that there are other methods as well.
#1: The Revelatory Approach
The skeptical issue in our culture mostly enters into the religious dialogue in the following way: “In the case of God, who isn’t some physical object but a divine being, what kind of evidence should we expect to find? There is a tendency to forget that the Bible stresses that sin can dampen the cognitive faculties that God has given us to find Him. Therefore, sin has damaging consequences on the knowing process (Is. 6:9-10; Zech. 7:11-12; Matt. 13:10-13). Thus, people are dead, blinded, and bound to sin.
One of the most important themes of the Bible is that since God is free and personal, that he acts on behalf of those whom he loves, and that his actions includes already within history, a partial disclosure of his nature, attributes, and intensions. Revelation is a disclosure of something that has been hidden– an “uncovering,” or “unveiling.” There are three things are needed for a revelation to take place: God, a medium, and a being able to receive the revelation.
The mediums God uses in the Bible are General Revelation (The Created Order/Conscience; Rom. 1&2); Special Revelation: Jesus (John 3:16; 14:9; Colossians 2:9; Heb. 1:1-2), The Bible (2 Tim. 3:16); Miracles, Prophecy, Theophanies, Messengers, and other means as well.
But why the need for revelation? First, we need to know the character of God. Hence, we need a clear communication to establish the exact nature of God’s character. Who is God and what is He Like? Also, we need a revelation to understand the origin of evil/the Fall. In other words, we need to be educated concerning the reasons for where we are at as a human race. Furthermore, without a clear revelation, people might think they are the result of a blind, naturalistic process instead of being created in the image of God. And without a clear revelation we would not know our destiny.
#2: Historical Arguments
When it comes to historical arguments, we ask if God has revealed Himself in the course of human history? If so, when and where has He done this? We can look at religious texts and see if they pass the tests for historicity. Thus, we enter the domain of historical apologetics.
The good news is that we can detect God’s work in human history and apply historical tests to the Bible or any other religious book. Former atheist Antony Flew said the resurrection of Yeshua was the best attested miracle claim that he had seen In a debate with Gary Habermas, Flew agreed that if it is a knowable fact that Yeshua rose from the dead literally and physically it then constitutes “the best, if not the only, reason for accepting that Jesus is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel.” 
All historical revelatory claims must be taken on a case-by-case basis. We need to evaluate the evidence for each claim in its own historical and religious context. Thus, what is needed is to examine the written documents, both oral and eyewitness testimony, as well as archaeological evidence to support the people, place, or events in the documents they have available to them.
#3: God or Theism as an Explanatory Hypothesis?
C.S. Lewis said that “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” (see The Weight of Glory). To apply what Lewis says, we might utilize what is called inference to the best explanation. The inference to the best explanation model takes into account the best available explanation in our whole range of experience and reflection. In utilizing this method, people on both sides of an argument agree on what needs to be explained (certain features of reality) but they disagree on why this feature of reality exists. Both sides strive to offer the better explanation for the evidence. For example, when we look at these features of reality, which provides a more satisfactory explanation:
- How do you explain the Origin of the Universe?
- How do you explain the Mathematical Fine-Tuning of the Universe?
- How do you explain the Terrestrial Fine-Tuning of Planet Earth?
- How do you explain the Informational Fine-Tuning of the DNA molecule?
- How do you explain the Origin of Mathematical Laws?
- How do you explain the Origin of Logical Laws?
- How do you explain the Origin of Physical/Natural Laws?
- How do you explain the Origin of the First Cell?
- How do you explain the Origin of Human Reason?
- How do you explain the Origin of Human Consciousness?
- How do you explain the Origin of Objective Morality?
- How do you explain Ultimate Meaning in Life?
- How do you explain Ultimate Value in Life?
- How do you explain Ultimate Purpose in Life?
#4: Philosophical Evidence
If we could remember the nature of the object determines how we know it, than for skeptics to constantly say there is no evidence, the first thing to ask is “What is the nature of the object they are trying to know?” What is God? Welcome to natural theology!
The word ‘proof’ is a loaded term, which turns on our understanding of what constitutes knowledge. There are knowledge claims that are rooted in inference, and are therefore on various levels of probability. Some arguments for God’s existence use this approach. A different approach in terms of ‘proof’ in establishing the existence of God is by rational demonstration. This is found in the classical writings of Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, Maimonides, Avicenna, Aquinas, & Leibniz. Edward Feser writes that philosophical arguments are still the most adequate approach to showing there is a God—the God of classical theism. The God of classical theism is immutable, immaterial, eternal, uncaused, omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good, and can’t be compared to created gods that are part of the physical world such as Thor, Zeus, and others. Please note that if you want to find out about these thinkers by reading Richard Dawkins, you are already off to the wrong start.
#5: Pragmatic Arguments?
Many people might ask why I would bring this one up. The reason I mention it is because about 70% of people I talk to about say ”I don’t understand what difference believing in Yeshua would make in my life?” This is a very popular approach. In this argument, many people say their religious beliefs have been tried and tested out in the reality of life. Thus, they think their beliefs correspond to reality because they do make a difference.
This does have some merit. After all, if a specific faith is the one true path, it should make a radical difference in the reality of life. The challenge of this argument is that in some cases, it seems Christianity doesn’t work. Christians have challenges in their families, work related issues and relationships. However, just because Christians don’t always reflect the character of Yeshua and don’t always show the difference it makes, this doesn’t mean Christianity is false.
It could be that the person is not under healthy teaching/discipleship or living in sin. So the pragmatic argument can be a tricky one. Everyone knows Christians have done some amazing things for the world (see here), but we also have some inconsistencies.
#6: Existential Arguments
The latest book by Clifford Williams Called Existential Reasons For Belief in God is another approach to why people believe in God.
According to Williams, for some people logic and reason are dominant and in others emotion and satisfaction of needs are dominant.
Williams mentions 10 existential needs from his book:
- the need for cosmic security
- the need for meaning
- the need to feel loved
- the need to love
- the need for awe
- the need to delight in goodness
- the need to live beyond the grave without the anxieties that currently affect us
- the need to be forgiven
- the need for justice and fairness
- the need to be present with our loved ones
#7: Religious Experience
Here we have to differentiate between knowing our faith is true and showing our faith is true:
1.Knowing our faith is true though personal experience: Disciples of Jesus are blessed to receive the assurance of the truthfulness of our faith through the work of the Holy Spirit (Rom 8: 16-17; 2 Cor. 2:2). However, people of other faiths claim to have personal revelations/experiences. Thus, people have contradictory religious experiences that seem quite real. For example, Mormons claim that the Holy Spirit confirms their faith as true by a “burning in the bosom”—this is something they consider to be a confirmatory personal experience.
Showing our faith is true through reasons and evidence: While religious experience is important, all experience must be grounded by truth and knowledge. Knowledge can be the key thing as to what keeps us close to God over the long haul. Plus, Jesus says we should love him with all our being (i.e., mind, emotions and will). Sometimes people think that personal religious experience negates the need for having other good reasons for faith.
But think about this: Would you accept Islam as true if a Muslim said to you, “I know Islam is true because of my personal experience.” Or, what if a Mormon said to you, “I know Mormonism is true because of personal experience.” The list goes on. I assume many of us wouldn’t consider Islam nor Mormonism as being true based on these comments. Therefore, perhaps when we say, “I follow the Messiah because of my personal experience,” some people aren’t very impressed. In conclusion, religious experience should be one aspect of our overall cumulative case for our faith.
There are several other approaches to the existence of God. Given humans are emotional, intellectual, and volitional creatures, there is no “one size fits all approach.” I hope that has caused you to go further in the question of God’s existence.
 See Gregory A. Boyd and Paul R. Eddy, The Jesus Legend: A Case For The Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Tradition (Grand Rapids: MI: Baker Books. 2007).
 Gary R. Habermas, Antony Flew, and David J. Baggett, Did the Resurrection Happen?: A Conversation with Gary Habermas and Antony Flew (Downers Grove IL: Intervarsity. 2009), 85.
 Gary R. Habermas and Antony G. N. Flew, Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? The Resurrection Debate, ed. Terry L. Miethe (San Francisco: Harper & Row. 1985), 3.
(4) W.L. Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Faith and Apologetics 3rd ed. (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008), 43-60.
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