God, Are You Real?

Brian Watson preached this sermon on September 24, 2017.
MP3 recording of the sermon.
PDF typescript of the prepared sermon.

Today, we’re starting something new. I’m going to give a series of messages answering people’s questions. I titled the sermon series, “If You Could Ask God One Question, What Would It Be?” The idea is to see what people would ask God if they could speak to him directly. But I’m also taking questions about God, or even handling people’s questions about the Bible or the Christian faith.

When I ask, “If you could ask God one question, what would it be?” I’m presupposing that there is a God. I’m assuming that God exists. Most of us here are Christians, and we may never doubt the existence of God. But some of us may have doubts, and we all know people who are skeptics. They may wonder if indeed God exists. Their question may be, “God, are you real?” Or, “God, are you there?” We all know people who outright reject the existence of God. Simply quoting the Bible to these people likely won’t work, since they don’t yet trust that the Bible is the written word of God. Before they can believe the word of God, they need to know that there is a God.

So, how do we know that God exists? I’m going to answer that question as well as I can in about forty-five minutes. Of course, I can’t give a full answer in one message. But I want to give us some good reasons to believe that God—and specifically the God of the Bible—indeed exists. I’m going to work through this very carefully and logically, so please follow closely.

To begin to answer this question, we need to have some idea of who God is. Monotheistic religions—religions that believe in one God—believe that God is a perfect being.[1] The standard monotheistic vision of God is that he is personal, eternal, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, benevolent, and immaterial. That last part is very important. God isn’t matter. The Bible says that God “dwells in unapproachable light” and that “no one has ever seen or can see” him (1 Tim. 6:16).[2] And Jesus said that God is spirit (John 4:24). That means that we can’t see God.

The Bible also says that there is a separation between us God and us due to our sin, which is our rebellion against God, our disobedience of his commands, and our general way of living life without reference to him. Isaiah 59:1–2 says this:

1 Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save,
or his ear dull, that it cannot hear;
2   but your iniquities have made a separation
between you and your God,
and your sins have hidden his face from you
so that he does not hear.

This explains why we don’t always sense God, why we don’t see him or hear his voice directly. We are estranged from God.

How would you get to know a stranger? There are two ways. The first way is you could get to know about the stranger. You could learn facts about him or her. You could dig up information online, see if any news stories are written about this person, see if they have a website or blog, or discover their social media profiles. You could even stalk this person or hire a private investigator to do that for you.

Yet we can’t see God. We can’t learn about him, at least directly, through observation or experimentation. Though we can’t see God, the Bible tells us that there are clues to his existence which are available to all people. In Christian theology, we call these clues general revelation.

One passage that tells us this is found in the New Testament book of Romans. Romans is a letter written by the apostle Paul, who was commissioned by Jesus to spread the message of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire. This is what he writes in Romans 1:18–20:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For 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.

Paul’s point toward the beginning of this letter is that all human beings are in quite a predicament. We all know God exists, but we ignore him. We suppress the truth about him and don’t live for him. Instead, we worship false gods. And, therefore, we stand condemned by God. Now, if true, that’s bad news. Paul does get to good news later. I will, too. But I want to focus on what he says about our knowledge of God. He says that that “what can be known about God is plain,” because “God has shown it.” More specifically, two of God’s attributes, “his eternal power and divine nature,” are evident from “the things that have been made.”[3]

Is this true? Can we know something of God from the created order?

Well, yes, I believe we can. This doesn’t mean we can know everything about God from studying the universe, but we can know that he exists, and that he is eternal and powerful and intelligent.

Some people don’t realize that there are many arguments for the existence of God. When I say, “argument,” I don’t mean a fight or a quarrel. I mean a philosophical argument, a case presented to show that God exists. Each argument is not definitive “proof” that God exists. Someone can always doubt any of the premises of these arguments, or simply refuse to believe. But they show that the idea that God exists is rational. And when multiple arguments for God are presented, they accumulate a certain weight. In short, together, these arguments make the case that the God hypothesis, that God exists, makes far better sense of life than the atheistic hypothesis, that there is no God. You can’t simply write these arguments off.

When it comes to arguing for the existence of God from the existence of the universe and the complexity of life, there are at two major arguments. The first argument for the existence of God that we’ll consider today is called the cosmological argument. I know, “cosmological” is a big word. It simply refers to the “cosmos,” or the universe. The idea is that the very existence of the universe needs explaining. Why, after all, is there something rather than nothing? This argument states that the best argument for the existence of the universe is that God created it.

Put more formally, this is the argument:

1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

2. The universe began to exist.

3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Let me explain each point. The first premise is that everything that begins to exist has a cause. That’s an important qualification. Because there is one thing that didn’t begin to exist. And that thing is the ultimate bedrock, the thing that needs no other explanation. We believe that thing, or being, is God. Christianity has always believed that God is eternal, uncreated. He doesn’t require an explanation. The Bible presupposes his existence and begins with these words: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). God sometimes calls himself “I am” (Exod. 3:14; Isa. 41:4; 43:10, 11, 13; 44:6; 48:12; John 8:24). The idea is that God exists, period. He doesn’t need any other explanation. He is the one necessary being. Everything else is contingent. That means that everything else might not have come into existence. The universe doesn’t need to exist. But God does.

Now, if you reject God, you have to state that universe exists, period. It’s just a brute fact. And many scientists used to believe that the universe itself was eternal, that it had no beginning. But in the twentieth century, significant scientific discoveries called that belief into question. And that leads us to the second premise of this argument, which is that the universe began to exist.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, many scientists believed that the universe was eternal and static. However, some American astronomers, including Edwin Hubble, observed that distant heavenly bodies were moving away from the Earth, leading them to conclude that the universe was expanding. Judging from the current rate of expansion and extrapolating this data backwards would suggest that at one point the universe was very small and very dense. Scientists believe that all matter, energy, and space were in this dense ball, which expanded into the universe as we know it. Though scientists can’t get “behind” a certain point using models, this suggests that the universe had a definite beginning. This is the so-called “Big Bang.”

Some Christians are afraid of the “Big Bang,” because they think accepting it is the same thing as accepting some form of Darwinian evolution. But the two really don’t go together. In fact, the term “Big Bang” was created by an atheist, Fred Hoyle, in 1949, and it was intended as a pejorative term. He rejected the Big Bang theory because it suggested that God created the universe.

In the 1940s, scientists predicted that if this hypothesis were true, then cosmic background radiation would be found on the edges of the universe. In other words, residual energy of the initial and incredibly hot explosion would be found at the edge of the universe in a cool, harmless form, and the temperature of this radiation would be uniform all around the edges of the universe. This prediction was confirmed in 1965, when two physicists, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, working at the Bell Telephone Labs, found this cosmic background radiation. They were working on a satellite designed to detect microwave radiation and they found that such radiation was coming to earth from all directions of space. Penzias and Wilson won the Nobel Prize in 1978. When he won that prize, Arno Penzias said, “The best data we have concerning the big bang are exactly what I would have predicted, had I nothing to go on but the five books of Moses, the Psalms, the Bible as a whole.”[4]

Penzias said that because if everything that begins to exist has a cause, and the universe began to exist, then it has a cause. What else could cause the universe to exist except God? Not only would an incredibly powerful force need to create the universe, but, as we’ll see, an intelligent agent would have to plan and carry out this creation.

More of the details of this argument are available online at our website, wbcommunity.org. If you search for the “Articles” section under the “Media” tab, you can find an article about this cosmological argument with far more details than I have time to present this morning.[5]

Before we move on to the second argument we’ll look at this morning, I want us to consider this: If God can create a universe out of nothing, can he not perform miracles? Some people have a hard time believing miracles are possible. Yet miracles are reported throughout the world on a somewhat regular basis, even if they are relatively rare. And miracles are certainly part of the Christian faith. If God could make a universe out of nothing, could he not cause a virgin to become pregnant? Could he not raise Jesus from the dead? Can he not, some day in the future, restore the universe to be a perfect place? If God has the power to cause a universe to come of nothing, he has the power to change us and fix this broken world.

Since time is short this morning, I’ll move on to the second argument. The big fancy name for this argument is the teleological argument, but I’ll simply call it the design argument. In fact, there are many different design arguments that can be made. All of these arguments state that life is designed, and therefore there must have been a Designer who created life. And, of course, that designer is God.

Put more formally, here is the design argument:

1. Every design has a designer.

2. The universe has highly complex design.

3. Therefore, the universe has a Designer.

The first premise of the argument is obvious. Of course, every design has a designer. If I found a machine of some kind, even if I didn’t know what it did and even if it were broken, I would still recognize that someone designed and made that machine. We recognize design when we see it.

That leads to the second, and more controversial premise, which is that we find evidence of highly complex design in the universe. As expected, atheists challenge this premise. Francis Crick, who co-discovered the structure of the DNA, says that “biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved.”[6] He said that because biologists continually see what evidently looks like design. But, according to Crick, this intuition that life is designed must be beat back by our firm belief in unguided evolution, which is the atheistic explanation of how life emerged. Richard Dawkins, a famous atheist and evolutionary biologist, says, “One of the greatest challenges to the human intellect, over the centuries, has been to explain how the complex, improbably appearance of design in the universe arises.”[7] So, both Crick and Dawkins acknowledge that there certainly appears to be design in the universe. But their atheism won’t allow a Designer in the door. Yet since they can’t ignore the idea that complex forms of life somehow emerged out of non-living things, they have both posited that aliens somehow “seeded” life on Earth.[8]

As I stated before, we recognize design when we see it. Design requires information, not law-like patterns or random chaos. Here’s an illustration of what I mean. This week we had some powerful winds. On Thursday, a number of branches and even one larger limb fell from the big tree outside these windows to my right. The branches happened to fall in a random pattern that didn’t mean anything. But suppose I went outside on Thursday and found that the branches were arranged in such a way as to form letters, which spelled out the words, “I love you.” Would I suppose that somehow the winds had just happened to cause the branches to fall into that pattern? Or would I suppose that somehow had taken the fallen branches and then arranged them into that meaningful pattern? Of course, that would be the best hypothesis.

The point is that we recognize design, because design results in complex patterns that appear in specific arrangements. (This concept is called specified complexity.) Intelligence is required to generate information, to arrange branches or letters or, as we’ll see, nucleotides (the chemical bases that make up our DNA) into particular, meaningful arrangements. Random, unguided events degrade information, they don’t create it. Imagine if I took all the letters of all the words of this sermon I have written, and I put each letter on a little slip of paper. Imagine I had all of those slips of paper stacked on top of each other, so that all the letters appeared in their proper order. Then imagine I took those slips of paper and threw them into the air, confetti style, so that they landed on the floor. Then imagine I randomly grabbed the slips of paper and put them into a new, reordered stack. What are the chances of that new ordering of letters producing meaningful words and sentences? Sure, I might have some new words, and perhaps even a few words strung together. But most of it would be gibberish.

Here’s why this matters. We find evidence of design in cellular biology. In other words, we find design at the microscopic level in even the simplest life forms. Charles Darwin knew nothing of the complexity of life since it was only in the twentieth century that we could even begin to observe such complexity. DNA is our genetic material. It is quite literally encoded information that is found in each of our cells. It is very much like a language. The information contained in DNA is so complex that Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, said, “DNA is like a computer program, but far, far more advanced than any software we’ve ever created.”[9] The information in our DNA determines our physical traits. The information in our DNA is like a set of instructions that are used to build proteins, the building blocks of our bodies.

It turns out that the code of DNA must be rather precise to build new proteins in our bodies. It appears almost impossible that random, or unguided, changes to our DNA would produce new proteins. This is significant because those who believe that large-scale evolution is responsible for the emergence of all of life believe that new traits and, ultimately, new species emerged through random mutations in DNA. The idea is that small changes in DNA led to new traits in species. The members of species that had beneficial new traits were able to out-survive and out-procreate other members of their species. Thus, the new trait was passed on to more members of that species so that, in time, all members of that species would have that trait. And with each successful trait added through random mutations, a species would eventually evolve into a new species. A nearly countless series of small changes to species accounts for all the diversity of life.

The problem is that the chances of producing new, functional proteins through random mutations is unimaginably small. Proteins consist of amino acids, linked together in chains. Recent studies have shown that the probability of a mutation producing a sequence of 150 amino acids that could fold to produce a stable protein is 1 in 1074. That’s one followed by seventy-four zeros. But a stable protein isn’t necessarily a functional one. The probability of producing a stable protein old of that size is 1 in 1077. That’s “one chance in one hundred thousand, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion.”[10] Keep in mind that there are about 1080 atoms in the universe, and that longer proteins can consist of 400 amino acids. The chances of producing a functional medium-size protein by way of random mutations is about the same chances that a blind astronaut has of finding one particular atom in the whole universe. Now, someone can always say, “Well, it’s incredibly improbable, but that’s just how things have worked out.” But I find that it would take much more faith to believe that idea than to believe in God.

Another way that we can see design in biological is in the complexity of molecular machines. Michael Behe, a science professor at Lehigh University, wrote a book about complex biological systems called Darwin’s Black Box.[11] He noted that some biological systems are irreducibly complex. That means that if you take one part away, the system doesn’t work anymore. In other words, it would seem impossible for small evolutionary changes to produce these complex systems, because any advantage that an organism would have comes only by having the whole system. His famous example is the bacterial flagellum. The flagellum helps a bacterial cell swim by acting like a rotary propeller, similar to the way an outboard motor propels a boat. The propeller of the flagellum is a hair-like structure called the filament, which fits into a universal joint called the hook. The hook attaches the filament to the cell’s outer membrane. On the inside of that outer membrane, connecting to the opposite end of the hook, is the rod, which acts as a drive shaft. The rod is connected to the stator, which is embedded in the inner membrane of the cell. Within the stator is the rotor, which rotates the rod, spinning the hook and filament so that the bacteria can “swim.” Several O-rings and other parts hold the structure together, and the motor of the flagellum is powered by a flow of acid through the membrane of the cell. The flagellum can move at up to 100,000 RPM. This system is amazing complex and incredibly small (a flagellum is about 10 micrometers, or 10 millionths of a meter), and this is found in simple, single-cell organisms. Are we supposed to believe that these molecular machines are the result of blind, purposeless, undirected processes? From everything that we know, such complexity is the result of an intelligent agent. Who else but God could come up with DNA and the complex, fully-integrated systems that we find in cellular biology?

If you want to know more about this story, I would encourage you to watch a documentary about Michael Behe called “Revolutionary.” You can watch it on YouTube or at www.revoltionarybehe.com.[12] You can also read about this design argument in far greater detail on our website.[13]

Before moving on to the final argument, let us consider what it means for God to be the designer of life. If God designed life, isn’t there a purpose? If he has designed the laws of physics and the complexity of biology, hasn’t he designed all of life? Doesn’t he dictate our purpose and how we should live? Shouldn’t we want to know what God’s design for our lives is?

There’s one more clue to God’s existence, something that is available to all of us. The apostle Paul, in the book of Romans, says that all people have information to know that there is a God. The Israelites had special revelation from God. God performed miracles in their midst and spoke to them and gave them his law. So, they certainly have no excuse for ignoring God and violating his commands. But Gentiles (non-Jews) are also without excuse because, as we’ve seen, they have the witness of God’s creation to tell them there’s a God. But Paul also says they have a conscience which indicates to them that there is a moral law.

To see this, let’s read Romans 2:12–16:

12 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

The meaning of some of this is debated, but I think that when Paul says that Gentiles, though they don’t have the law, sometimes do what the law requires, he means that all human beings have a general sense of morality.[14] A moral law is part of the fabric of God’s design, and we all sense this law. Everyone knows murder, rape, and theft are always wrong. We may not agree on the particulars, but civilizations have largely agreed on basic morality. When we do follow the dictates of that moral law, our conscience is clear. Yet we so often do what we know to be wrong, so that our conscience accuses us.

This leads us to the moral argument for the existence of God. Put formally, it goes like this:

1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties don’t exist.

2. But objective moral values and duties do exist.

3. Therefore, God exists.

The basic idea is that if there is an objective moral law, something real that we can appeal to when injustice occurs, it has to be rooted in something real. It can’t be manmade law, because then we can always change it. Moral values or facts, such as murder is wrong, must be grounded in something (or someone) that is unchanging, and even transcendent and eternal. Moral obligations or duties, such as “you shall not murder,” are personal. They are laws, and laws are written by moral agents. Any unchanging, universal, transcendent moral law must be rooted in the existence of God.

Many atheists have been aware of this. Jean-Paul Sartre said, “It [is] very distressing that God does not exist, because all possibility of finding values in a heaven of ideas disappears along with Him.”[15] Friedrich Nietszche said, “There are altogether no moral facts,” and that morality “has truth only if God is the truth.”[16] And then there’s Richard Dawkins, who writes, “In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”[17] In other words, according to these atheists, if there is no God, there’s no transcendent moral law.

But we all know better. Every time we make a universal moral claim, such as racism is always wrong, or that rape is always wrong, we’re not just stating an opinion. We’re appealing to something greater than a personal preference, or even a temporary, manmade code. We’re appealing to a transcendent moral law.

Almost forty years ago a professor at Yale Law School named Arthur Leff wrote an article about ethics in a law journal. He begins his article with these words:

I want to believe—and so do you—in a complete, transcendent, and immanent set of propositions about right and wrong, findable rules that authoritatively and unambiguously direct us how to live righteously. I also want to believe—and so do you—in no such thing, but rather that we are wholly free, not only to choose for ourselves what we ought to do, but to decide for ourselves, individually and as a species what we ought to be. What we want, Heaven help us, is simultaneously to be perfectly ruled and perfectly free, that is, at the same time to discover the right and the good and to create it.[18]

In other words, he says we need a transcendent moral law that come from a final, perfect authority. But he also doesn’t want to be ruled by that authority. What he’s saying is that all moral controversies can be boiled down to what he calls “the grand sez who.”[19] When one person says, “Such-and-such is wrong,” the other person can say, “Says who?” Moral evaluations require an evaluator. According to Leff, “the evaluator must be the unjudged judge, the unruled legislator, the premise maker who rests on no premises, the uncreated creator of values. Now, what would you call such a thing if it existed? You could call it Him.”[20] Leff says, “Either God exists or He does not, but if He does not, nothing and no one else can take His place.”[21]

Then, he adds:

We are never going to get anywhere (assuming for the moment that there is somewhere to get) in ethical or legal theory unless we finally face the fact that, in the Psalmist’s words, there is no one like unto the Lord. If He does not exist, there is no metaphoric equivalent. No person, no combination of people, no document however hallowed by time, no process, no premise, nothing is equivalent to an actual God in this central function as the unexaminable examiner of good and evil. The so-called death of God turns out not to have been just His funeral; it also seems to have effected the total elimination of any coherent, or even more-than-momentarily convincing, ethical or legal system dependent upon finally authoritative extrasystemic premises.[22]

To put it more simply, he’s saying that if God doesn’t exist, then who makes the ethical rules? Who makes the final moral judgments? What is the answer to “says who”?

Leff isn’t a believer. He gives no reason for rejecting the God hypothesis other than the fact that he doesn’t want to have an ultimate authority rule over him. But he ends with these words:

All I can say is this: it looks as if we are all we have. Given what we know about ourselves and each other, this is an extraordinarily unappetizing prospect; looking around the world, it appears that if all men are brothers, the ruling model is Cain and Abel. Neither reason, nor love, nor even terror, seems to have worked to make us “good,” and worse than that, there is no reason why anything should. Only if ethics were something unspeakable by us, could law be unnatural, and therefore unchallengeable. As things now stand, everything is up for grabs.


Napalming babies is bad.

Starving the poor is wicked.

Buying and selling each other is depraved.

Those who stood up to and died resisting Hitler, Stalin, Amin, and Pol Pot—and General Custer too—have earned salvation.

Those who acquiesced deserve to be damned.

There is in the world such a thing as evil.

[All together now:] Sez who?

God help us.[23]

The death of God is the death of an objective moral law and an ultimate moral evaluator. And that is, ultimately, a very bad thing, because it would mean there is no justice, no final court of appeals, no one to say definitively that this is right and this is wrong. Everything would be up for grabs.

We can learn a bit about God through these arguments. They establish that believing in God’s existence is rational. I think they establish that theism (that God exists) is far more probable than atheism. I think the God hypothesis is far better than an atheistic one. But these arguments only take us so far. They are limited.

Earlier I said we can learn about a stranger by observing them and by digging up facts about them. But if we want to know a stranger, we need to listen to that person. We need to let him or her speak. We have no other way of truly knowing that person’s personality, desires, thoughts, hopes, dreams, regrets, secrets, and so forth. And so it is with God.

One of my favorite authors is a pastor named Tim Keller. He has written two great books that give us reasons for believing in the existence of God. The more recent one is Making Sense of God, which shows that without God we wouldn’t have reasons to believe that our lives have meaning, that there are rights and wrongs, or that we could ever have justice and hope.[24] His earlier book, which I view as something of a modern classic, is called The Reason for God. I highly recommend both of them to anyone who doubts that God exists. In The Reason for God, Keller writes:

When a Russian cosmonaut returned from space and reported that he had not found God, C. S. Lewis responded that this was like Hamlet going into the attic of his castle looking for Shakespeare. If there is a God, he wouldn’t be another object in the universe that could be put in a lab and analyzed with empirical methods. He would relate to us the way a playwright relates to the characters in his play. We (characters) might be able to know quite a lot about the playwright, but only to the degree the author chooses to put information about himself in the play.[25]

And here’s the thing: the author of life has put information about himself in this play. In fact, the author of life has entered into the play.

We Christians believe that Jesus is God. As the Son of God, he has existed forever. We believe God the Father created the universe through the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. And yet, over two thousand years ago, the Son of God also became a man. This is what it says at the beginning of another book in the New Testament, the book of Hebrews:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs (Heb. 1:1–4).

Notice that it says that God has spoken. He has revealed himself. Prior to Jesus’ birth, God had primarily revealed himself through the prophets. We call Scripture “special revelation,” because it gives more specific information about who God is and what he expects of us. The most special and specific revelation of God is his Son, who came in the flesh. Jesus taught us most clearly about the ways of God. He, the one who created the world and now sustains it by his powerful word, also died in place of sinners. It’s as if Shakespeare wrote himself into Hamlet to die in place of the melancholy Dane. Or, to put a contemporary twist on it, it’s as if J. K. Rowling wrote herself into the Harry Potter books—and actually, physically entered into the world of those books—to die in place of Harry and his friends.

The best way to know God is to know Jesus. And there is evidence that Jesus lived, died, and then rose from the grave.[26] The best evidence we have about Jesus is the Bible, but there are sources outside the Bible that also confirm his life, death, and resurrection.

We have all broken God’s moral law. We have failed to live according to God’s design. We fail to love and live for the Creator of the universe. But Jesus came and lived the perfect life, fulfilling God’s design for humanity. And though we have broken God’s moral law and deserve punishment, Jesus took that punishment for his people when he died on the cross. And he rose from the grave as the first installment of a new creation, one that won’t be contaminated by sin and death. Everyone who trusts in Jesus has their sins paid for and will live with him forever in that new creation.

So, the question is, “God, are you real?” And the answer is a resounding, “Yes!” What is the greatest proof? God sent his Son. To know Jesus is to know God. If you’re here today and you want to know more about Jesus, I would love to help you. But for now, let’s pray.


  1. Anselm (1033–1109), a medieval Christian theologian, said to God: “You are something than which nothing greater can be thought.” In other words, God is the greatest conceivable being. Anselm of Canterbury, Proslogion, trans. M. J. Charlesworth, in The Major Works, ed. Brian Davies and G. R. Evans, Oxford World’s Classics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 87.
  2. All Scripture quotations are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV).
  3. See also Psalm 19:1–6.
  4. This was reported in The New York Times, March 12, 1978, quoted in Edgar Andrews, Who Made God? (Carlisle, PA: EP Books, 2009), 94.
  5. See https://wbcommunity.org/cosmological-argument.
  6. Francis Crick, What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery (New York: Basic Books, 1988), 138, quoted in Douglas Axe, Undeniable: How Biology Confirms Our Intuition That Life Is Designed (New York: HarperOne, 2016), 3–4.
  7. Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 157.
  8. Francis Crick, Life Itself: Its Origin and Nature (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1981). Dawkins makes that claim in the film, Expelled
  9. Bill Gates, The Road Ahead, rev. ed. (New York: Viking, 1996), 228; quoted in Douglas Groothuis, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011), 316.
  10. Stephen C. Meyer, Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design (New York: HarperOne, 2013), 200.
  11. Michael J. Behe (New York: Free Press, 1996).
  12. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ToSEAj2V0s; http://revolutionarybehe.com.
  13. https://wbcommunity.org/the-design-argument.
  14. My understanding of this passage is informed by Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1998), 116–125.
  15. Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialism and Human Emotions (New York: Philosophical Library, 1957), 22, quoted in Paul Copan, “Ethics Needs God,” in Debating Christian Theism, ed. J. P. Moreland, Chad Meister, and Khaldoun A. Sweis (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 86.
  16. Friedrich Nietszche, Twilight of the Idols and the Anti-Christ (New York: Penguin Books, 1068), 55, 70, quoted in Copan, “Ethics Needs God,” 86.
  17. Richard Dawkins, “God’s Utility Function,” Scientific American 273 (Nov. 1995): 85.
  18. Arthur Allen Leff, “Unspeakable Ethics, Unnatural Law,” Duke Law Journal 1979, no. 6 (1979): 1229. The whole article can be found at http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3810&context=fss_papers.
  19. Ibid.: 1230.
  20. Ibid.
  21. Ibid.: 1231.
  22. Ibid.: 1232.
  23. Ibid.: 1249.
  24. Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical (New York: Viking, 2016).
  25. Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (New York: Riverhead Books, 2008), 126–127.
  26. For more information, see https://wbcommunity.org/jesus, particularly the first sermon, “How Can We Know Jesus?” (December 14, 2014). See also https://wbcommunity.org/evidence-resurrection-jesus-christ and the resources linked to that page.

Evidence for God: Cosmological Argument

The cosmological argument concerns the cosmos, or universe. And what an amazing thing this the universe is, filled with galaxies, stars, and planets, including our own. Earth itself is an amazing thing, teeming with complex life. When we consider the universe, we are filled with a sense of awe. The philosopher C. Stephen Evans calls this “cosmic wonder.” He writes, “For different people it is engendered in different ways. For some it comes from contemplating the wonders of nature, gazing into a vast, starry sky or pondering a soft, dreamy sunset. For others, it comes at a birth or at the death of a friend or relative. But I am convinced that this experience is genuine and almost universal.”[1]

This cosmic wonder may cause us to wonder why we exist, or why anything exists. Those of us given to philosophical reflection might ask, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” The existence of the universe is the subject of the cosmological argument.

Before we look at the cosmological argument, we should consider something very important. We are trying to present evidence for a God who is not bound by space, time, physics, chemistry, or biology. He is spirit, not a man of flesh and bones. We cannot see God, or conduct an empirical test that proves he exists. Therefore, all our evidences of God are somewhat indirect. Tim Keller calls them the “clues of God.”[2]

By trying to find the clues of God, we are like detectives. We look for evidence. We cannot recreate the beginning of the universe in a lab. It is a one-time historical event. Some atheists require that we present airtight proofs for God. However, this is unreasonable, and something that they don’t ask of themselves. (They cannot provide airtight proof for evolution, and they certainly cannot empirically disprove the existence of God.)

Consider the following discussion of searching for the evidence of God.

When a Russian cosmonaut returned from space and reported that he had not found God, C. S. Lewis responded that this was like Hamlet going into the attic of his castle looking for Shakespeare. If there is a God, he wouldn’t be another object in the universe that could be put in a lab and analyzed with empirical methods. He would relate to us the way a playwright relates to the characters in his play. We (characters) might be able to know quite a lot about the playwright, but only to the degree the author chooses to put information about himself in the play. Therefore, in no case could we “prove” God’s existence as if he were an object wholly within our universe like oxygen and hydrogen or an island in the Pacific.[3]

Similarly, in an essay, C. S. Lewis writes, “I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”[4] We cannot look directly at the sun (well, not for long, and we shouldn’t do it if we value our eyesight), but we can learn much about the sun by seeing how it illuminates the world and helps vegetation grow. In much the same way, we can learn about God.

At the risk of overkill, I will add one more quote that makes a similar point. It is one worth stressing, because atheists and agnostics must realize that our knowledge of God cannot be acquired through scientific testing. This is what Winfried Corduan advises:

Don’t bother trying to invent some kind of a spiritual magnifying glass to try to see God. God’s own nature keeps this from becoming a possibility; after all, if he exists he must be an infinite, invisible spirit, just the kind of being who is impossible to detect directly. But what you can do is to look at the actual world to see if it is put together in such a way that it must have been created by God. In fact, someone who believes in God is very likely to say:

Unless there were a God, there could not be any world.

Someone who expresses this sentiment is not just looking for one specific attribute of the world. It is the very existence of the world that leads a person to realize there must be a God who created it.[5]

This is what the cosmological argument addresses. The universe exists; therefore, God exists.

The Argument

Prominent Christian theologians, philosophers, and apologists have used various forms of the cosmological argument over the years. The Dominican priest, Thomas Aquinas (1225-1724), used it as one of his five proofs for the existence of God in his magisterial Summa Theologica. German mathematician and philosopher G. W. F. Leibniz (1646-1716) used a different form of the cosmological argument. Going back further in history, a Muslim theologian, Al-Ghazālī (1058-1111), formulated the kalām cosmological argument.[6] His argument: “Every being which begins has a cause for its beginning; now the world is a being which begins; therefore, it possesses a cause for its beginning.”[7] We will use a modified version of this argument. While it may seem strange to borrow a theistic argument from a Muslim, we must remember that all truth is God’s truth. “Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22), and Daniel was instructed in the literature, language, and wisdom of the Chaldeans (Dan. 1:4, 17). We, too, can learn some things from people of other faiths, even if their faith is wrong. Sometimes it is necessary to plunder the Egyptians.

The following is a formal statement of this argument:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

2. The universe began to exist.

3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

To which we can add:

4. The cause of the universe is God.[8]

The first part of argument (the first two premises and the conclusion) is valid. We will examine the first two premises to see if they are true. If they are true, the argument is sound, the conclusion inevitable. And the conclusion (the universe has a cause) should lead us toward God, who is the only being capable of creating the universe out of nothing.

Whatever Begins to Exist Has a Cause

This premise should be self-evident. As Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli wryly state, “Most people—outside of asylums and graduate schools—would consider it not only true, but certainly and obviously true.”[9]

It is important to know that this premise says, “Whatever begins to exist has a cause.” It does not say, “Whatever exists has a cause.” Many atheists try to twist this argument into that shape. Bertrand Russell once wrote, “If everything must have a cause, then God must have a cause. If there can be anything without a cause, it may just as well be the world as God, so that there cannot be any validity in that argument.”[10] Richard Dawkins likes to say, “Who did God?” or “Who designed the Designer?” (This latter question is supposed to be a refutation of Intelligent Design.) These are classic straw man arguments. They build up a false or weak argument (the straw man), only to knock it down.

The real argument says that everything that begins to exist has a cause. This means everything that is not eternal, that is not infinite, has a cause. We can call these things finite or contingent things. What constitutes such a thing or being? Corduan provides a list of conditions regarding a contingent/finite thing:

1. It is restricted by time and space.

2. It can be changed by something other than itself.

3. It has a beginning in time.

4. It needs things other than itself to continue existing.

5. Its attributes, whether essential or accidental, are to some extent influenced by other things.[11]

The only thing or being that does not meet these conditions is God. He is not bound by time and space; he cannot be changed by others and he is unchanging; he has no beginning (and no end); he needs nothing from anyone else; and his attributes are not influenced by others (though we can debate how much his actions and plans are influenced by prayer).

It is also important to remember that in Christian theology, there is a distinction between the Creator and the creation. God, by his very nature, is eternal and uncaused. He simply exists. As he told Moses, “I am who I am” (Exod. 3:14). In different eastern religions and New Age thought, there is no distinction between God and creation. In atheism, there is only creation. (Of course, they would simply talk about the universe or the cosmos, not “creation.”) But in Christianity, there has always been a clear distinction. This doctrine is not one created to support the cosmological argument; rather, it is as old as the Bible.

Not only does this first premise support the message of Christianity, it is obvious from experience. Everything we see and experience has had a cause. You and I have causes (our parents), and they had causes, and those causes had causes, and so on. As we move backwards in time, through the great chain of causes, we realize that everything must have a cause, and at the end of that regress, there must be one uncaused cause.

Still, as we will see, some atheists try to deny this first premise. According to Quentin Smith, “the most reasonable belief is that we came from nothing, by nothing, and for nothing.”[12] To such a comment, William Craig Lane responds, “To suggest that things could just pop into being uncaused out of nothing is to quit doing serious metaphysics and to resort to magic.”[13] He observes that this claim is not scientific, but metaphysical, or philosophical. However, if something could truly come from nothing, how could this be? The question Craig asks is, “if prior to the existence of the universe, there was absolutely nothing—no God, no space, no time—how could the universe possibly have come to exist?”[14] Clearly, for something to come from nothing would be against all known laws of physics, in addition to being contrary to common sense.

Though some atheists may disagree with this first premise, it would seem the burden of proof rests on their shoulders. As Douglas Groothuis points out, “All we need for a legitimate and successful argument form is that the premise be more likely than its denial.”[15] Certainly, “Whatever begins to exist has a cause” is more likely than, “Whatever begins to exist does not have a cause.”

The Universe Began to Exist

We will have to spend more time defending this second premise. Of course, Christianity has always claimed that the universe had a beginning, because the Bible tells us so. However, various ideas concerning the universe have existed over the years. Certain Greek philosophers, such as the Stoics, believed that the world went through cycles of destruction and regeneration. So, even before the rise of science, some people thought the universe was eternal.

Scientific evidence

At the beginning of the twentieth century, most scientists thought that the universe was eternal, with no beginning and no end. According to such a thought, the universe was in a fixed state. Scientifically, this created some problems, as people wondered how the force of gravity did not compel the universe to contract and collapse upon itself. However, no alternative hypotheses presented themselves.

However, at the beginning of the twentieth century, scientific evidence began to reveal that the universe did have, in fact, a beginning. In 1913, Vesto Melvin Slipher, an American astronomer, discovered that several galaxies within the range of his telescope appeared to be traveling away from the earth at incredible speeds—sometimes up to two million miles an hour.[16] Slipher presented his findings at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in 1914. In the audience was Edwin Hubble, who would later be an instrumental figure in observing the expansion of the universe.

A few years later, on the other side of the Atlantic, Albert Einstein published his theory of general relativity in 1916. This theory chiefly concerns gravity. Einstein was trying to provide a mathematical model for a static universe, one that was not expanding. Privately, a Dutch astronomer named William de Sitter realized that these equations predicting an expanding universe, one in which galaxies were moving farther away from one another. However, it was World War I and communications were interrupted.

It turns out that Einstein had made a mathematical error in his equation—at one point he divided by zero, something you cannot do. This error was observed by Alexander Friedmann, a Russian mathematician. (George Lemaitre, a Belgian astronomer, independently made the same observation later.) By 1923, Einstein admitted his mistake. He would later call it the greatest mistake of his life.[17] Apparently, he made this mistake because he didn’t want there to be a universe with a beginning. “He was disturbed by the idea of a Universe that blows up, because it implied that the world had a beginning.”[18] Surely, this was because such a beginning implied a Creator.

By 1925, Slipher had recorded the velocities of 42 galaxies that were moving away from the earth. “These accomplishments placed Slipher in the ranks of the small group of men who have, by accident or design, uncovered some element of the Great Plan.”[19]

At this time, Hubble was working at the Mount Wilson Observatory in Los Angeles, the home of a 100-inch telescope, the most powerful instrument of its kind at that time. (Slipher only had a 24-inch telescope at his disposal.) Hubble and his assistant, Milton Humason, were able to see galaxies that were up to 100 million light years away. (A light year is the distance light can travel in one year, moving at the speed of 186,000 miles per second. This calculates to roughly six trillion miles.) This powerful telescope showed that these galaxies were very large, though they appear small because they are at a great distance from earth. He started to judge their distance by the brightness of the stars: a brighter star meant the galaxy was closer; the more dim the star, the farther away the galaxy was.

After calculating the distance of the galaxies, he was able to figure out how fast they moved. He discovered something amazing, known as Hubble’s law: the farther a galaxy is, the faster it moves. This revealed that all of space was expanding, not just the stars. This is hard for us to imagine, but this same law is at work in expanding balloons. Imagine taking a balloon and putting stickers on it, each sticker one inch apart from the other. Now you blow up the balloon. Even though all the stickers begin one inch apart, as the balloon expands, the stickers that are farther away actually move faster. That way, they retain their relative position on the expanding balloon.

Robert Jastrow explains this same phenomenon using the example of a lecture hall. Imagine the seats are spaced apart evenly by a distance of three feet. Now imagine the lecture hall rapidly doubles its size. If you are in the middle of the hall, some neighbors are now six feet. “However, a person on the other side of the hall, who was originally at a distance from you of, say, 300 feet, is now 600 feet away. In the interval of time in which your close neighbors moved three feet farther away, the person on the other side of the hall increased his distance from you by 300 feet. Clearly, he is receding at a faster speed.”[20]

The way that Slipher, Hubble, and Humason were able to measure the speeds of the galaxies is quite fascinating. They noticed that as a galaxy moved away from the earth, its color became redder. This is called the red shift. Jastrow explains:

The effect occurs because light is a train of waves in space. When the source of the light moves away from the observer, the waves are stretched or lengthened by the receding motion. The length of a light wave is perceived by the eye as its color; short waves create the sensation that we call “blue,” while long waves create the sensation of “red.” Thus, the increase in the length of the light waves coming from a receding object is perceived as a reddening effect.[21]

This red shift was measured by attaching a prism-like device to the telescope. This would show the light from the moving galaxy in a band of colors, a spectrum. This spectrum was recorded on a photographic plate, which was then compared to a nonmoving source of light. Essentially, the inherent brightness of the star was measured against the apparent distance of the star. The distance between the two revealed the distance of the star. (A more precise way of measuring the distance was provided by Enjar Hertzsprung, who used a method of triangulation to compare stars in our galaxy with more distant stars.[22])

All of this revealed an important fact: the universe is rapidly expanding. It is not static. Judging from the current rate of expansion and extrapolating this data backwards would suggest that at one point the universe was very small and very dense. It would also suggest that the universe expanded from a single point roughly 15 billion years ago.

Of course, we don’t have astronomical records that date back that far. But astronomers do have something very old to look at: the light generated by stars. Consider this: the light emitted from the sun takes a little over eight minutes to reach the earth. (The sun is about 93 million miles away from the earth and light travels at 186,000 miles per second, which means it takes eight minutes and 19 seconds for the light of the sun to reach us.) If we dare to look briefly at the sun, we are not seeing the sun as it currently is. We are seeing the sun as it was a little over eight minutes ago. When we look at more distant stars, we see them not as they are now, but as they were thousands or even millions of years ago. “The farther out we look in space, the farther back we see in time.”[23]

Hubble was able to plot the distance and speeds of many galaxies on a graph. Once again, the farther away the galaxy, the faster it moved. The galaxies and speeds charted on the graph were plotted along a straight line. Follow that line back a theoretical 20 billion years and you get to the Big Bang. In addition to this measurement, Allan Sandage and Gustav Tammann, who built on Hubble’s work, have also measured the age of the universe by testing the age of globular clusters in our galaxy. “Globular clusters are large clusters of stars that were formed when the Universe was about one billion years old, shortly after the Galaxy itself had condensed out of the primordial gases. The age of these clusters is approximately 14 billion years old.”[24] That means the universe is 15 billion years old. The difference between these two figures shows that the expansion of the universe has slowed down a bit over time.

The evidence of an expanding evidence lead to an inevitable conclusion: the universe had a beginning. But many scientists did not like that conclusion, for nonscientific and philosophical reasons. That is, they didn’t want there to be a beginning of space (and time, which functions as a fourth dimension), because that would suggest evidence for God. Three British astronomers, Thomas Gold, Hermann Bondi, and Fred Hoyle, developed the steady state theory in 1948. They conceded that the universe is expanding, but they argued that the universe is still eternal. They claimed that new material could be created continuously out of nothing in the empty spaces of the universe. It is a far-fetched theory based on philosophy, not science. As Edgar Andrews writes, “For entirely philosophical reasons, they were allergic to the idea of a ‘big bang’ origin.”[25]

Other evidence that pointed to a Big Bang also shot down the steady state theory. (It should be noted that Hoyle coined that term, “Big Bang,” around 1950. In his view, it was a derogatory term.) At the end of World War II, physicists Ralph Alpher and Robert Herman, working with George Gamow, predicted that a cosmic explosion would “have been filled with an intense radiation in the first moments following the explosion.”[26] This radiation would be similar to that of a hydrogen bomb. If the universe “banged” into existence, this radiation should be found on the edge of space, in a cooled and harmless form. In other words, there should be evidence of this hot, dense explosion.

In 1965, two physicists, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, working at the Bell Telephone Labs, found this cosmic background radiation. They were working on a satellite designed to detect microwave radiation and they found that such radiation was coming to earth from all directions of space. They found the very thing one would expect to find if the Big Bang actually happened.

There are further lines of evidence that support a Big Bang. These include the elements found in the universe. A Big Bang theory predicts that 30 minutes after the explosion, 25 percent of the matter in the universe would have been helium. (The initial explosion featured only hydrogen, the lightest and simplest element. When hydrogen molecules combine, they can form heavier elements.) By measuring the helium found in the oldest stars, scientists find that they consist of approximately 25 percent helium. The Big Bang model also shows how the hydrogen could lead to all of the other elements in the universe. (Burning hydrogen produces other elements like carbon, oxygen, and aluminum. Supernovae—exploding stars—spray material into space that combines with fresh hydrogen to form the other elements.)

In 1992, the Cosmic Background explorer, a satellite, discovered more ripples of cosmic radiation. George Smoot, leader of this project, said, “What we found is evidence for the birth of the universe. . . . It’s like looking at God.”[27] This discovery confirmed what Penzias and Wilson discovered in 1965. It also confirmed evidence reported in 1990 that showed that the temperature of this background radiation was very cold, about three degrees above absolute zero (or 3° Kelvin or -270° Celsius). This temperature was also very uniform throughout the universe. This shows that the entropy of the universe is very large. Entropy is the measure of disorder in a system. In this case, it describes the amount of heat that has dissipated. A low entropy system is a very hot, very ordered system (the hot and dense matter that exploded in the Big Bang). A high entropy system is increasingly disordered and increasingly cooler. Only a cosmic explosion could account for the massive amount of entropy found in our universe.

The entropy found in our universe also supports the idea that the universe is not eternal. The dissipation of heat throughout the universe from the time of the cosmic explosion until now shows that the universe is not eternal. If the universe were eternal, all the energy of the universe would have dissipated and the universe would reach “heat death” by now. This is the way Douglas Groothuis summarizes this argument:

1. If the universe were eternal and its amount of energy finite, it would have reached heat death by now.

2. The universe has not reached heat death (since there is still energy available for use).

3. Therefore, (a) the universe is not eternal.

4. Therefore, (b) the universe had a beginning.

5. Therefore, (c) the universe was created by a first cause (God).[28]

Let’s summarize the evidence:

1. Astronomers such as Silpher and Hubble discovered that the universe is expanding.

2. The equations of Einsteins’s theory of general relativity, when solved properly, suggest that the universe had a beginning (“t=0, a first moment of time, when everything was compressed into a point with no dimensions”[29]).

3. The cosmic background radiation found in the later twentieth century confirms the Big Bang hypothesis.

4. Entropy supports the idea of a finite universe.

All this evidence certainly points to God. Hugh Ross explains:

The big bang together with the equations of general relativity tell us there must be a simultaneous beginning for all the matter, energy, and even the space-time dimensions of the universe. This beginning occurred only a few billion years ago and places the cause of the universe outside, that is, independent of, matter, energy, space, and time. Theologically this means that the Cause of the universe is independent of and transcendent to the universe. The Christian faith is the only religion among the belief systems of humankind that teaches such a doctrine about the Creator.[30]

When Penzias won the Nobel Prize in 1978 (along with Wilson), he said, “The best data we have concerning the big bang are exactly what I would have predicted, had I nothing to go on but the five books of Moses, the Psalms, the Bible as a whole.”[31]

Stephen Hawking, a British physicist who essentially holds atheistic views, realized what the Big Bang meant. “So long as the universe had a beginning, we could suppose it had a creator. But if the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end; it would simply be. What place then for a creator?”[32]

Hawking, realizing what a universe with a beginning entailed (the presence of a creator) came up with a different idea of how the universe (one without beginning or boundaries). It is too complicated to recount here, but the key element was an evasion of a singularity, a moment of creation or beginning of the universe. But the only way to make this work was to insert imaginary numbers into Einstein’s equation to yield a universe that has no boundaries. An imaginary number is the square root of a negative number. However, this number cannot exist in reality. (The square root of 4 is 2 or -2. But you cannot have a square root of -4, not with real numbers, anyway.)

Atheistic scientists have tried to dodge the beginning of the universe in other ways.[33] The oscillating model suggests that the universe has been in an infinite Big Bang-Big Crunch cycle. In other words, the universe continually expands and contracts. This would require the universe to stop expanding at a certain point and then start contracting upon itself, reversing the Big Bang until the universe was once again incredibly dense. But there is no evidence that the universe will stop expanding.

There are many different theories that suggest that there are other universes out there and that ours is one of many (the multiverse theory) or that our universe is the product of an infinite regress of universes. For example, the “baby universe” theory can be explained this way: “It has been conjectured that black holes may be portals of wormholes through which bubbles of false vacuum energy can tunnel to spawn expanding baby universes, whose umbilical cords to our universe may eventually snap as the wormholes close up, leaving the baby universe an independently existing spacetime.”[34] That is science fiction, not science, and no data support such a view.

If there were such a thing as a multiverse, a collection of potentially infinite universes, we would have no way of knowing they exist. And even if they did, we would still have to account for their origins. As Andrews observes, “There is not the slightest scientific evidence—or any other kind of evidence if you rule out UFOs—to support the multiverse concept. It can never be more than an inference from scientific data. It might or might not be true, but that is something we shall never know.”[35]

Because other hypotheses are not rooted in science or reality, we can safely assume the Big Bang hypothesis is the most accurate scientific account for the beginning of the universe. However, it doesn’t really tell us how or why the universe was started. We need God to tell us that. Let us consider the words of Jastrow, an agnostic:

A sound explanation may exist for the explosive birth of our Universe; but if it does, science cannot find out what the explanation is. The scientist’s pursuit of the past ends in the moment of creation.

This is an exceedingly strange development, unexpected by all but the theologians. They have always accepted the word of the Bible: In the beginning God created heaven and earth. To which St. Augustine added, “Who can understand this mystery or explain it to others?” The development is unexpected because science has had such extraordinary success in tracing the chain of cause and effect backward in time. We have been able to connect the appearance of man on this planet to the crossing of the threshold of life on the earth, the manufacture of the chemical ingredients of life within stars that have long since expired, the formation of those stars out of the primal mists, and the expansion and cooling of the parent cloud of gases out of the cosmic fireball.

Now we would like to pursue that inquiry farther back in time, but the barrier to further progress seems insurmountable. It is not a matter of another year, another decade of work, another measurement, or another theory; at this moment it seems as though science will never be able to raise the curtain on the mystery of creation. For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.[36]

A philosophical argument

In addition to the scientific evidence that supports a beginning to the universe, there is one philosophical argument that comports with the beginning of the universe. This argument is hard to grasp, but it essentially questions the possibility of an infinite universe. If there were no beginning to the universe, then the universe would be an actual infinite number of years (or months or days, etc.) old. However, an actual infinite does not actually exist in reality. (We can say the same thing about the number of causes and effects in the universe. There must be an actual number, not an actual inifinity.

We must differentiate a potential infinite from an actual infinite. A potential infinite is a series of numbers that has a beginning and keeps increasing but never reaches an upper limit. You can simply keep adding one to this number. This verse from “Amazing Grace” proves that point:

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise,
Than when we’ve first begun.[37]

Why will we have no less days? Because we can simply add one more to our number as our potentially infinite number of days increases.

An actual infinite, however, consists of an actual number. It belongs to theoretical mathematics and set theory, not to real life. Imagine you had this actual infinite number. Then you divided it in half. What would you have? Would you still have an infinite number, or half of infinity? Of course, you cannot divide infinity by half. If time were actually infinite (with no beginning and no end), we would never arrive at “now.” Perhaps it is easier to think of this in distance. As Groothuis writes, “We can neither count from one to infinity nor count down from infinity to one. There is always an infinite distance to travel, so we never arrive.”[38]

Similarly, we could never have an infinite series of causes, because there needs to be a first cause that set the series in motion. There cannot be a chain of cause and effects (imagine them in a circle, so each cause has a previous cause and a subsequent effect, with no discernible beginning or end). The reason for this is because some cause would ultimately have to cause itself, or the chain would never exist in the first place.

Therefore, the universe cannot actually be infinite or eternal. Only God can be eternal, without beginning or ending, because he is beyond time and space. It is important to note that existence can be potentially infinite, because it has a beginning. Christians had a time when they came into existence, but they will never cease to exist.

Can God be eternal, then? Of course. When God created the universe, he created time in a physical sense. It would seem that at that time he created the laws of physics and mathematics and all other natural laws. Before that moment, God existed (he always has), but not in a way that is differentiated into moments, hours, days, or years. We must remember that God is not bound by his creation, including time.

Therefore, The Universe Has a Cause

It seems that the two premises of the argument are true. Everything that begins to exist must have a cause, and the universe began to exist at one point. Therefore, the universe must have had a cause. But does this mean that cause is necessarily God?

The Cause of the Universe is God

Let us consider the nature of this cause. This entity must transcend space and time. The cause must be beginningless and uncaused. Ockham’s Razor dictates the simplest answer, which means we should not have two or more uncaused causes (such as multiple gods). This entity must be extremely powerful, able to create something out of nothing. There would be no way of detecting this first cause through science, because it stands outside of space and time, and therefore must be immaterial. We will learn from the design argument that the universe is full of information, seemingly the product of intelligence, which must come from a mind, which means this entity must be personal. If the cause is not personal, then it is impersonal, and it seems incredible to think that an impersonal force could create persons.

Of course, these attributes belong to the true, living God we read about in the Bible. Judaism and Islam could also use this argument, as could deists. We have already seen problems in the deist’s worldview, and we will address other religions such as Judaism and Islam at a later time. For now, we must content ourselves with the knowledge that the cosmological argument shows that there must be a God. Other arguments, particularly from Scripture, reveal the character and nature of the true God.

Possible Objection from Christians

At this point, I want to address a very real issue. Some Christians might feel uncomfortable using this argument, because it relies on scientific evidence that shows that the universe is billions of years old. Some people think that such a position is not compatible with the Bible. I understand this concern and appreciate it. Much can be said about how Genesis 1 relates to the age of the universe, but for now, I will say that I don’t think the Big Bang theory contradicts what the Bible actually says. Many evangelical Christians would agree with me. However, to understand how science and the Bible interact will require an in-depth study of what the Bible says about the age of God’s creation.

It should be enough to say right now that the Big Bang does not necessarily support macro-evolution, or what we might now call neo-Darwinism. It does not support a universe that has come into existence through material or natural causes. After all, the Big Bang theory suggests that at the beginning of the universe, some infinitely dense ball of hydrogen came, well, out of nowhere. Only God could account for that.

Scientific truth will never contradict the truth of the Bible, because both the Bible and the universe declare the glory of God to us. Remember that Psalm 19:1 states, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” Day and night “speak” of God (Ps. 19:2-6). Romans 1:18-20 also says that nature reveals some of God’s attributes. The revelation found in nature is assumed to be true, because the ungodly and unrighteous men suppress the truth and exchange it for a lie (Rom. 1:18, 25). So if scientists, using actual data, acquired and honestly and interpreted rightly, will never come up with information that contradicts that which is in the Bible.


  1. C. Stephen Evans, Why Believe? Reason and Mystery as Pointers to God (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996), 34.
  2. Timothy Keller, The Reason for God (New York: Riverhead Books, 2008). See chapter 8, “The Clues of God.”
  3. Ibid., 126-27.
  4. C. S. Lewis, “Is Theology Poetry?” in The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), 140.
  5. Winfried Corduan, “The Cosmological Argument,” in Reasons for Faith, edited by Norman L. Geisler and Chad V. Meister (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007), 202.
  6. Kalām is an Arabic word for “speech.”
  7. Al-Ghazālī, Kitab al-Igtisad fi’l-I’tiqad, quoted in William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith, 3rd ed. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), 96.
  8. This is the way Douglas Groothuis frames the argument in Christian Apologetics (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011), 214. He is borrowing from the work of Craig in Reasonable Faith, 111-56.
  9. Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 58.
  10. Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects, edited by Paul Edwards (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1957), 6-7. Similarly, Daniel Dennett asks, “What caused God?” in Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (New York: Viking, 2006), 242, quoted in Craig, Reasonable Faith, 114.
  11. Corduan, “The Cosmological Argument,” 204.
  12. Quentin Smith, Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology (Oxford: Clarendon, 1993), 135, quoted in Craig, Reasonable Faith, 112.
  13. Craig, Reasonable Faith, 111.
  14. Ibid., 113.
  15. Groothuis, Christian Apologetics, 217.
  16. The information relies heavily on Robert Jastrow’s God and the Astronomers, 2nd ed. (New York: Norton & Company, 1992).
  17. Francis S. Collins, The Language of God (New York: Free Press, 2006), 63.
  18. Jastrow, God and the Astronomers, 20.
  19. Ibid., 21. I should point out that Jastrow calls himself an agnostic.
  20. Ibid., 53-54.
  21. Ibid., 55.
  22. Edgar Andrews, Who Made God? (Carlisle, PA: EP Books, 2009), 102.
  23. Jastrow, God and the Astronomers, 61.
  24. Ibid., 64.
  25. Andrews, Who Made God?, 99.
  26. Jastrow, God and the Astronomers, 69.
  27. Associated Press, “U.S. Scientists Find a ‘Holy Grail’: Ripples at Edge of the Universe,” London International Herald Tribune, April 24, 1992, page 1; quoted in Hugh Ross, Creation and Time (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1994), 129.
  28. Groothuis, Christian Apologetics, 226.
  29. C. John Collins, Science and Faith: Friends or Foes? (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2003), 233.
  30. Ross, Creation and Time, 129.
  31. This was reported in The New York Times, March 12, 1978, quoted in Andrews, Who Made God?, 94.
  32. Stephen J. Hawking, A Brief History of Time (New York: Bantam, 1988), 140-41.
  33. Craig reviews many of these alternative theories in Reasonable Faith, 128-50.
  34. Ibid., 145.
  35. Andrews, Who Made God?, 209.
  36. Jastrow, God and the Astronomers, 106-107.
  37. John Newton, “Amazing Grace” (1772). Groothuis uses this example in Christian Apologetics, 217.
  38. Groothuis, Christian Apologetics, 219.