Clues to the existence of God
Is the Christian faith reasonable? Does it make sense of what we see and experience in the world? Famously, C. S. Lewis once thought it unreasonable and came around to believe it to be eminently reasonable. In one of his writings, Lewis spoke of notions of right and wrong in our human experience as “clues to the meaning of the universe.” A clue is something that suggests but does not prove. Put together, clues have cumulative significance. The following are eight clues that form reasons for believing in the existence of God and the Christian faith.
Clue 1: Creation – The Origins of the Universe
A central theme of the Christian faith is that God created all things from nothing. Christian theology affirms that the universe has not existed from all eternity, but came into being in an instant. Modern cosmology is at least resonant with the Christian view of origins in that the universe is not eternal, but came into being at a certain time in the past. The question is, “What caused the universe?” For something cannot come from nothing. Whatever begins to exist has a cause. This can be reasoned out in the following line of argument:
Premise 1: Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
Premise 2: The universe began to exist.
Conclusion: Therefore, the universe has a cause.
All things considered, divine causation is a plausible explanation for the origins of the universe.
Clue 2: Fine-Tuning – A Universe Designed for Life
In recent years, increasing attention has been paid to the phenomenon of “fine-tuning” in nature. The term “fine-tuning” is often used to refer to the scientific realization that the values of certain fundamental cosmological constants (speed of light, the gravitational constant, electromagnetic coupling, the masses of the elementary particles, etc.) appear to be necessary for life to have come into existence. The values of these constants, even if varied slightly, would have rendered the possibility of intelligent life, null.
Atheist cosmologist Fred Hoyle wrote, “It is as if a super-intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and there remain no blind forces worth speaking about in nature.”
Even though he was unsympathetic to the idea that God created the universe, he acknowledged the contemporary evidence is better explained by the idea of divine creation rather than by happenstance.
Clue 3: Order – The Structure of the Physical World
We take it for granted that there is an ordered cosmos, without which the scientific enterprise would be impossible. Regularity and intelligibility are necessary pre-conditions for modern science. We also take for granted that our minds to give as factual data about what’s “out there.” We assume that there is congruence between our minds and the universe, and the question is: “Why is this so?” Asked differently, “Why can we explain things at all?”
Theoretical physicist John Polkinghorne points out: “We are so familiar with the fact that we can understand the world that most of the time we take it for granted. It is what makes science possible. Yet it could have been otherwise. The universe might have been a disorderly chaos rather than an orderly cosmos. Or it might have had a rationality which was inaccessible to us… There is a congruence between our minds and the universe, between the rationality experienced within and the rationality observed without.”
The Christian answer is the same God who brought the world into being also created the human mind, with a God-given analogy and congruence between each of these aspects of his creation.
Clue 4: Morality – A Longing for Truth and Justice
Human beings do have an instinct and intuition that certain objective moral values exist. (Nazi killings were objectively wrong – I have yet to find someone willing to argue otherwise). The question is: Are there transcendent grounds for concepts of morality and justice that are not merely the product of human convention (socially constructed)?
The belief in God seems to offer the best explanation for the existence, nature and our knowledge of objective moral truths. Atheist philosopher Iris Murdoch argued that a transcendent notion of goodness was essential if defensible human notions of “rights” and “justice” were to be maintained. If she is right, our desire for rights and justice in the world is a further “clue to the meaning of universe.”
Clue 5: Desire – A Homing Instinct for God
Another argument for the existence of God is the “argument from desire.” Christian apologists argue that there exists a deep sense of yearning for something transcendent that is ultimately grounded in the fact that we are created to fellowship with God and will not be fulfilled until we do so.
C. S. Lewis develops his argument from desire this way:
1. Every natural desire has a corresponding object, and is satisfied only when this is attained or experienced.
2. There is a natural desire for transcendent fulfillment, which cannot be attained or experienced by or through anything in the present world.
3. This natural desire for transcendent fulfillment can therefore only be fulfilled beyond the present world, in a world toward which the present order of things points.
Now our longings don’t prove anything – I could long for a chicken that lays golden eggs, but that does not mean one exists. But Lewis’ point is that Christianity teaches that our sense of longing for God is exactly what we should expect, since we are created to know God. Our deeply felt longings ultimately point to something that only God can satisfy. As Augustine prayed, “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”
Clue 6: Beauty
Many find themselves deeply moved by a scene of natural beauty – a great sunset, mountain range, ocean view or a wooded valley. Unlike a rational argument, beauty is something we appreciate immediately.
Listen to the soring language Leonard Bernstein uses when commenting about the effect of Beethoven on him: “Beethoven turned out pieces of breath-taking rightness. Rightness – that’s the word! When you get the feeling that whatever note succeeds the last is the only possible note that can rightly happen at that instant, in that context, then chances are you’re listening to Beethoven. It’s the stuff of heaven. It makes you feel like there is something right in the world. Something we can trust that will never let us down.”
When we experience beauty or love, we get the sense that there is real meaning in life. In his sermon “The Weight of Glory,” C. S. Lewis argued that we have poses an instinct for transcendence, stimulated by beauty.
The human quest for beauty is a quest for the source of that beauty. Beauty points beyond the creation… that is transcendence. We all find some things beautiful, and it resonates at the heart of our existence.
“It was when I was happiest that I longed most, and because it was beautiful, it set me longing, always longing. Somewhere else, there must be more of it.” – C. S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces.
Clue 7: Relationality – God as a Person
The Genesis account emphasizes the goodness of God’s creation. Yet there is one point at which God judges that a change needs to be made. It is not good that Adam is alone (Gen. 2:18). We were created to exist in relationship – with one another, and with God. To be authentically human is to exist in relationship – as we are meant to.
Christianity is fundamentally a relational faith. The core biblical idea of faith is fundamentally about trusting a God who shows himself to be worthy of that trust, in word and deed. The ideas of faith, hope and love are deeply interconnected. We trust in a God who loves us and gives us hope for the future.
Throughout Scripture, God is understood as a person – not an impersonal force – who loves us and desires relationship with us. We have a God-given capacity to relate to our creator and redeemer. God is someone who we can know, not just know about.
Many fans of Dorothy Sayer’s detective stories and mystery novels point out that Sayers was one of the first women to attend Oxford University. The main character in her stories — Lord Peter Wimsey — is an aristocratic detective and a single man. At one point in the novels, though, a new character appears, Harriet Vane. She is described as one of the first women who graduated from Oxford – and as a writer of mystery novels. Eventually she and Peter fall in love and marry. Who was she? Many believe Sayers looked into the world she had created, fell in love with her lonely hero — Lord Peter Wimsey — and wrote herself into the story to save him. Very much like the incarnation (John 1:14), where Jesus came to his own.
The desire for relationship hard-wired into us is a clue that we were made to know and to be known by a personal God.
Clue 8: Eternity – Hope
Ecclesiastes 3:11 has been translated, “that God has set eternity into our hearts.” We do possess a sense of the brevity of human life and an intuition that there is more to reality than this brief time on earth. Journalist Lisa Miller noted individuals and societies seemed to be hardwired to believe in “a place that embodies the best of everything – but beyond the best… what’s most beautiful, most loving, most just, and most true.”
In his biography of Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson recounts a conversation with Jobs: “I remember sitting in his backyard in his garden one day and he started talking about God. He said, ‘Sometimes I believe in God, sometimes I don’t. I think it’s 50-50 maybe. But ever since I’ve had cancer, I’ve been thinking about it more. And I find myself believing a bit more. I kind of – maybe it’s ‘cause I want to believe in an afterlife. That when you die, it doesn’t just all disappear. The wisdom you’ve accumulated. Somehow it lives on.’”
Why this desire for ongoing existence and significance? The desire and intuition is hardwired into us, just as Ecclesiastes 3:11 says.
As the poet Matthew Arnold puts it:
But often, in the world’s most crowded streets
But often, in the din of strife
There rises an unspeakable desire
After the knowledge of our buried life.