Can the existence of God be proved?

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Many people, even Christians, think that the existence of God cannot be proved. This is supposedly also written in the Bible (Mt 16:17; Ef 3:9; Col 1:26). One can only believe in God (2 Cor 5:7; 1 Pe 1:8). Missionary activities therefore would be very difficult or even futile. But when this is true, than all kinds of problems arise about what and how one should believe. For example, a human being would then have no responsibilities towards God. There would be no threat from the announced coming of God’s final judgment. Conversion would then only happen by the grace of God’s election, but would then work in a mystical way. God would be hidden for man. Some believers do think that there is prove of God’s existence. But even that is not exempt of problems. Hence, these are two conflicting viewpoints. What is written in the Bible about this contested question?

By Marco van Putten

What is proof of God’s existence?
‘Proof’ is an occurrence for which there exists evidence. Or ‘proof’ is physical material (dead or alive) of an act or intention. This is then used to show the reason or fact from which it originated. What purpose can proof of God’s existence have? It is clear that humans have no urge to find this proof, since they by nature prefer not to know Him (Jh 15:18). If proof of God’s existence is out there, then the purpose of it must come from God Himself; Self-revelation (Tit 2:11). But because it is aimed at humans, it obviously must meet certain requirements. It has to be able to be understood loud and clear. It must have an unequivocal and consistent meaning. Hence, humans are susceptible to confusion, equivocalness and allegory (searching for deeper (mystical) meanings behind the factual proof).

Internal proof
Many people do not realize that even believe in itself can be called proof of God’s existence. This becomes proof even more so when it is not only based on assumptions, but when God reveals Himself to a multitude of people (Ex 19:9). In the Bible many such revelations are mentioned. Sometimes God speaks through angels or through people. This even happens today. But in the Bible there are also many verses which begin with the words: ‘God said …’ or ‘God commanded …’. From that point on God is the Speaker in many following verses. In such cases, God was literally speaking Himself. However, unbelievers will say that this is all made up and they will not accept that as proof of God’s existence. Despite that such revelations of God came from outside man they classify this type of proof as ‘internal’ proof of God’s existence. It is only proof for those that believe in it.

Indirect proof
Still there are even stronger hints for the existence of God. There are forces and phenomenons in Creation that are dangerous for creatures. These ‘prove’ that Creation is bigger than they are. That explains why people began to worship these (lifeless) forces and phenomenons as gods (Animism and Pantheism). Also, in Creation one can observe structure and hierarchy. Both in the human body as in the interaction between men. Animals clearly are ‘above’ plants. Man is ‘above’ plants and animals. By the way, that man is supreme in this hierarchy – they are created in God’s Image and Likeness to rule over Creation – is however, since some centuries now, only seen as internal proof.

Plants, animals and people, who were exceptionally ‘strong’ to most man, were worshipped as gods (Pantheism and Polytheism). It is also observed that in Creation, despite that it bends towards chaos and degeneration, order sustains. On macro level, like the universe, on micro level and on molecular level. But this happens also on the level of creatures. Between predators and prey and in human social networks and its governing systems there exists an order ‘behind it’ which can be identified. Creation seems to have its own ‘intelligence’ or it is controlled from the outside. The recognition of this goes beyond the worshipping of phenomenons or creatures of Creation. This makes it childish. When this ‘intelligence’ is regarded as being outside of Creation, then that counts as ‘indirect’ proof of God’s existence. Proof without God’s direct revelation to humans. This goes beyond subjectivity of the personal experience involved in internal proof. Indirect proof can be classified as deducted objectivity.

Direct proof
The Bible cannot be regarded as internal proof of God’s existence. Despite that many people declassify it as only invented and written by humans and call it therefore indirect of internal proof of God’s existence. The characteristics of the Bible and the consequences of its existence ‘proof’ the opposite. What is thought in the Bible most people are able to do and seems to ‘work’ in any time-period. Its type of literature is unique and the Bible is incomparable with other books on belief. It has become the basis for three world religions. Israel even has based its national existence on it. There was a strong bond between the Bible and the Lord Jesus as a Man. His life is the strongest proof of God’s existence so far. These are ‘direct’ proofs of God’s existence, since everyone can conclude it directly from objective evidence without deducting it. However, people rather put the emphasis on the fact that these also have subjective components and by so doing they make them contestable.

Consequences of denial
Denying the proof of God’s existence is not without repercussions, but has grave consequences:
For the definition of God
Proof of God’s existence determines Who Gods is and what He does. When proof of God’s existence does not exist then anything can be stated about God. Even that He does not exist (Ps 14:1; 53:1).
For the definition of Creation
For example, Creation has ‘intelligence’. If this is not regarded as proof of God’s existence, then why does Creation exist? Creation would then only be a loveless entity existing only through ‘coincidence’ and ‘logic’ that has no purpose other than self sustainment. Creation would then not be designed by God.
For the acts of God in Creation
According to the Bible God takes care of Creation daily (Rm 1:20). Without it, Creation would perish. Denial of this proof of God’s existence would mean that the sustainment of Creation depends on something else then to God. That reduces God’s caretaking.
For God’s Self-revelation to humanity
Every (normal) father wants to know his children and raise them. If God is ‘Father’ then He would want to do the same to man. If the proof of that is lacking, then God is no ‘Father’.
For the authority of the Bible
According to the Bible proof of God’s existence is available (Jh 1:18). To deny that is questioning the authority of the Bible, by which the definition and purpose of God is lost.
For faith
Without proof of God’s existence, belief becomes vague. Faith asks at least for a conceptual description and a format, but also a structure and a frame, like that of the different Christian denominations. Without proof of God’s existence a faith cannot be sustained. Falling away from it by believers is then a given. But that makes it hard to explain why Judaism still exists for nearly 3500 years.
For God being unsatisfied with Creation
If God condemns mankind for being evil in heart without making His discomfort known to them first, that would make His condemnation unjust. Then God would not be able to do right to the general evil, since that deed in itself would bring forward a proof of God’s existence. If God is unsatisfied, then He should have given a long time ago a temporary way out (the Bible) and an end-solution (God’s salvation plan). However, both would again give rise to proof of God’s existence.

Evaluation
Denial of proof of God’s existence is a way of reasoning God away, to avoid that God comes to close or for His existence to become to evident. Proof of God’s existence would confront man with the fact that they are accountable towards Him. Believers use the statement that God’s existence cannot be proved to avoid that God is to tightly mark out or for fear that proof of God’s existence would jeopardize their faith or the authority of the Bible. There is indeed a tension between believing and proofs of God’s existence. Problem is that God’s existence can be experienced everywhere, that God makes His existence known and that God makes people reflect on that. Proof of God’s existence is thus not contradictory to faith, but meant to strengthen it. Hence, faith needs a healthy component of certainty in order to grow. God demands growth in belief, but also observance (acts of faith).

There are proofs of God’s existence which are, from its origin, ‘above’ man. That proves that people didn’t come up with them. People nowadays want to pour every proof of God’s existence into a scientific mould. Problem is, that this is only partly possible. God, in principle, doesn’t meet the requirements of science. He is not human. Nor is He from our dimension. Proofs of God’s existence are therefore not simple explainable by science. But since occurrences and physical material can be scientifically examined sometimes a proof of God’s existence can be scientifically ‘proven’. However, the dominantly secular scientific practice doesn’t seek proof of God’s existence, since it doesn’t seek knowledge about God. It doesn’t serve faith, but is serves the secular society which finds the existence of God irrelevant. This also points at the weakness of the faculty of Theology. Scientific proof of God’s existence is in science always regarded as being internal or indirect proof. However, believers can use Theology as measure of reference in the world in which they live that is set on science.

There are different kinds of proofs of God’s existence, but not all are useful, reliable, robust and meaningful. Some think that proofs of God’s existence that can be deducted from Creation (the ‘general’ proof of God’s existence) together with the Bible (the ‘special’ proof of God’s existence). Together they would form the whole of God’s revelation to man. But according to the Bible Creation is corrupt and thus also man is. That principle makes all proofs of God’s existence mentioned in the above doubtful, since they are ‘found’ in Creation. Exception is God’s direct Self-revelation (Ex 19:16; 24:10). But even that can only occur within Creation.

Every proof of God’s existence has to be scrutinized. Who can scrutinize the Bible better then God Himself (and His acts). Without a living relation with God, that is open for correction, is confirmed and recognizes the importance of growth, proof of God’s existence has ample use. Than denying proof of God’s existence is more beneficial. But such person should not contradict proof of God’s existence. Then God would be honored, instead of reproaching Him that He doesn’t prove His existence.