In the last few years, we have seen the rising influence of writers and scientists who vigorously preach atheism.
They not only express their personal doubts about God’s existence, but they campaign with almost evangelical fervor against the very idea of God and religion.
These atheists are highly educated and their arguments are not easily dismissed by most people, even though their arguments have long ago been defeated. It is difficult to logically refute arguments that are unfamiliar to you. Many Christians see this move towards atheism as a threat. We who believe in God feel we must somehow win this argument, and prove that God does exist, otherwise the atheists will have won the argument.
But no, they haven’t. You see, although I have absolutely no doubt about God’s existence, I have also learned that it is impossible to prove it to someone who is determined not to believe. There is ample evidence in the world and the whole cosmos to show the existence of a Creator. As the Psalms say, “The Heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1). And Paul wrote to the church at Rome, “God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made” (Romans 1:20).
Knock Down Proof?
These scriptures are often used to prove God’s existence, but that is not what they are saying. The wonders of creation provide impressive evidence for those who believe, but they do not give knock down proof for those who do not. A determined atheist can always find a hole in an argument, or a loose brick in the proof. Thomas Aquinas, one of the greatest thinkers of church history, put it well when he wrote, “To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.”
The problem is that you cannot prove God’s existence from within naturalism – the philosophy held by those who assume that only nature exists. There is no amount of evidence that can be taken from nature and used as proof for the God of the Bible. This is because God is not physically a part of nature; He is transcendent of its origin. You can only ‘prove’ one aspect of nature on the basis of some other aspect of nature. So by studying nature, one can only yield further knowledge of nature. But, as the theologians of the early church put it: “Only God knows God, and only God reveals God.” At best, nature can give us indirect evidences that confirm the existence of God, but the ultimate reason Christians have faith in God is Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus is the Reason, or as the Gospel of John puts it, The Logos.
But, just because we cannot give clear material proof that God exists, it does not mean the atheist has won the argument. We don’t need to be on the defensive. What we need is to turn the argument around. It is not our job to prove God exists – it is the atheist’s task to prove He does not.
Atheists may cite some scientific discovery, the weakness of religious arguments, or the hypocrisy of some religious behavior to support their case. But, this should not divert attention away from the central fact they have to prove. They must still prove that God does not exist. And just as it is not possible to prove God exists through naturalism, you cannot prove God does not exist through naturalism. The study of nature can only negate claims about nature.
For this reason, many atheists eventually admit that they are actually agnostic. Even Richard Dawkins in his recent public conversation with the Archbishop Rowan Williams acknowledged that he could not say with 100% certainty that God does not exist – he stops short at 99%. If they are honest, they cannot dismiss the evidence that the physical, materialistic world is not all there is. They may not come to the point where they accept and surrender their lives to their Creator, but they are no longer sure He does not exist. They simply don’t know! They are agnostic, or “without knowledge.”
Never forget that the strongest proof of God’s existence is first, Jesus Christ and, second, the example of those who have surrendered to God, and live their lives in partnership with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Let us do that and let God take care of the atheists in his own good time. He will – because He loves them too.