In our last post we looked at how mankind "knows about God's existence" by his inner awareness, being made in his image, and the inborn categories people have about our world that are revealed by God through general revelation. Readers may review the last post here http://www.growingchristianresources.com/2023/08/post-4-doctrine-of-god-mans-inner.html
As mankind observes the various phenomena of the physical creation, he can infer God's existence by how causes and their effects present the patterns of beginnings and their outcomes. How so?
As noted last time, mankind is made in God's image (Genesis 1:26-28), meaning He is designed in such a way that His mental faculties, when properly functioning, automatically apprehend God's general revelation. Solomon puts it this way in Ecclesiastes 3:11
"He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end."
As we also saw last time from Romans 1:18-20, sinful human beings suppress this inner awareness. In addition to the physical creation, general revelation is borne witness inside the seat of moral intutions - the conscience. Paul writes about this in Romans 2:14-15,
"For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, 15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them."
The last post was concerned about pointing how how we "know" about God and His existence. In today's post, we will look at a second route that can raise one's awareness of God - various arguments for God's existence that "show" He exists.
Some examples of theistic arguments for God's existence.
Let me comment the value and limitation of theistic arguments, otherwise known as arguments or "proofs" for God's existence. These so-called arguments or proofs give us a way of showing God's existence. Now I bring this up because maybe some readers may well say: “if I remain unconvinced by arguments for God’s existence, does that mean I cannot believe in God?” Not at all! There are dozens, is not well over one-hundred arguments for God's existence. It could be that whichever arguments you have heard haven't yet overridden the intellectual objections. Also too, even if you've not heard even one argument, recall from the last post that God has placed in every person an inner awareness of His existence, Divine nature, power, and moral character to which each person is accountable.
All arguments for God's existence can do is show that God's existence is more probable than not (it is the Holy Spirit's inner working in concert with the Scripture that brings certainty and trust in God). Thus arguments for God's existence, on their own, cannot deliver "certainty", but only an increasing level of probability.
As I noted already, for other readers, perhaps you are not aware of such arguments. For example, I myself was not aware of theistic arguments for God until I had begun Bible College and Seminary. The vast majority of people come to know about God through what I wrote in the last post concerning our inner awareness of God and the Holy Spirit's working mentioned above.
The value of arguments for God, despite their limitations, are still useful for conversations with unbelievers and showing a second way for why belief in God's existence is most reasonable. They also raise the awareness of believers to appreciate God in His revelation in the world around us and in everyday experience.
Let me give you some examples of what I mean by such "arguments" or what are sometimes called "proofs". Keep in mind there are literally dozens upon dozens of such arguments, some better than others and some more clearer than others. For sake of space, I'll list below links to posts I've written over the years that feature arguments for God's existence for readers interested in wanting to read further.
1. The argument for God's existence from the origin of the universe is here http://www.growingchristianresources.com/2016/02/p1-universe-had-beginning-beginning.html
2. The moral argument for God's existence is here http://www.growingchristianresources.com/2015/11/how-objective-morality-and-duties-point.html
3. The argument for God being the best explanation for why anything exists is here http://www.growingchristianresources.com/2016/02/p1-how-god-is-explanation-of-universe.html
4. The argument for the fine-tuning of the universe as best explained by God's existence is here http://www.growingchristianresources.com/2019/03/how-remarkable-feature-of-universe-is.html
5. How Jesus' resurrection from the dead is proven historically and offers proof of God's existence here http://www.growingchristianresources.com/2021/03/how-to-begin-to-talk-about-and-defend.html
6. Argument for God's existence from the problem of evil and suffering here http://www.growingchristianresources.com/2020/03/part-one-gods-morally-sufficient.html and http://www.growingchristianresources.com/2020/03/part-two-gods-morally-sufficient.html
Arguments, evidence, and how someone goes from "knowing about God" to "knowing God".
Even apart from arguments and evidences, a person is still rationally justified for holding to their belief in God's existence. Author A.W. Tozer writes in his book: “The Pursuit of God”:
“To most people, God is an inference, not a reality. These notions about God are many and varied, but those who hold them have one thing in common: They do not know God in personal experience.”
Tozer then concludes: “While admitting His existence, they do not think of Him as knowable in the sense that we know things or people.” (pages 36-37)
The new birth in saving faith raises the inner awareness of God
As a Christian, I don’t believe in the God of the Bible because He is a conclusion to a series of theistic arguments (as valuable as such arguments can be for removing intellectual obstacles). Granted, I find such arguments build a step-by-step case for rationally affirming why God's existence better explains reality and human experience than non-theism. With that said, I am a Christian because God was apprehended by me in a moment of trust He initiated when I was a ten-year-old boy. Wayne Grudem comments on how the new birth raises this inner awareness of God,
"In the life of the Christian this inner awareness of God becomes stronger and more distinct. We begin to know God as our loving Father in heaven (Romans 8:15), the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirits that we are children of God (Romans 8:16), and we come to know Jesus Christ living within our hearts (Eph 3:17; Phil 3:8, 10; Col 1:27; John 14:23). The intensity of this awareness for the Christian is such that though we have not seen our Lord Jesus Christ, we indeed love Him (1 Peter 1:8)."
In today's post and the last one, we have talked about God's existence and man's inner awareness. We have noted that God has made Himself known to all human beings through what is called "general revelation" in the physical creation and human conscience. Further, we explored this "inner awareness" of God through what is called "properly basic beliefs", that is, true knowledge that is rational to hold apart from arguments and evidence.
In addition to such things as knowledge of the external world and other people's minds, the inner awareness of God's existence is foundational, available to all people even if they've never heard of any argument for His existence or the evidence thereof. We gave some examples of theistic arguments for God's existence, noting their value, while recognizing they are secondary in comparison to the primary way of knowing God's existence through mankind's natural inner awareness and the Holy Spirit's supernatural working that leads to salvation.
The God of the Bible, revealed in Jesus, doesn’t want mere affirmation that He exists. God desires you to know Him in a personal relationship. I will close with two quotes: one from the prophet Jeremiah in the Old Testament, Jeremiah 29:13 “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart”; and the other from James in the New Testament, James 4:8a “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”