Christians rightly turn to the Bible as the basis for their faith, because of their view that it is God’s divinely inspired message to mankind. But appealing to the Bible does not carry the same authority for someone who is yet to come to faith. Often, the starting point toward faith is sensing the stamp of God within the created world. This is known as natural theology. Not only has God revealed himself via special revelation (the Bible) but also via general revelation (the physical world and human conscience). What may be known about God from examining the created world is not as detailed as that which is revealed via inspired scripture, yet it is sufficient to come to a basic understanding of God and our intended relationship to him. The Bible itself tells us this:
“What may be known about God is plain to them because God has made it plain to them. For since the beginning of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:19-20).
The next verses in that passage then go on to speak of the innate sense of God that he has placed within our consciences – an inner voice that tells us that there is a God and that we should honour him:
“For although they knew God [by inference, innately] they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened … They exchanged the truth of God [implicitly imbedded in their consciences and seen in the created world] for a lie …” (Romans 1:21-25).
The next chapter of Romans also refers to the in-built sense of God and his laws:
“The requirements of the law [God’s law] are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness.” (Romans 2:15).
This, of course, answers the often-posed question, “What about those who have never heard about Jesus? If Jesus is the only way to God, how can God condemn people who have never heard of him?” The answer provided by this Bible passage is that a lack of exposure to special revelation (the message of the gospel through revealed scripture) does not excuse a person from culpability. People are still culpable for their disobedience to God because everyone has had access to general revelation: the clues of God in the natural world and the sense of his existence within their own consciences.
The issue of universal culpability, however, is a side issue to the purpose of this series of articles. What I want to investigate in greater detail is the evidence for God that Romans 1 says is obvious within the created world and which is sufficient for people to come to at least a basic faith in God. What is this evidence that “has been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse”? (Romans 1:20). What are the clues of God within the natural world?
The study of these clues is referred to as ‘natural theology’ – what may be known about God from the natural world. This differs from ‘special theology’, which is based upon the more specific revelation of God through inspired scripture and through the incarnational life of Christ. While natural theology does not carry the same weight of divine inspiration and authority as the Bible does, and its findings must necessarily be held up to the scrutiny of the scriptures as the ultimate source of divine truth, it does provide all mankind with a basic starting point for understanding God and his claims upon our lives.
So, what are these ‘clues of God’ in the natural world and how convincing are they? I will be examining seven key pieces of evidence for the existence of God within the natural world, and the first thing to point out about this evidence is that it represents a cumulative case for God’s existence. In other words, a person might find that no single piece of evidence is overwhelmingly conclusive, but as each additional piece of evidence is added to the portfolio, a cumulative case for God is built. As each evidence is examined, the likelihood of an alternate explanation apart from God becomes increasingly unlikely. The evidence mounts to the point where the existence of a Creator God is the most logical explanation for the facts, and a refusal to acknowledge this can only be maintained by clinging to a series of coincidental, increasingly unlikely explanations, to the point of absurdity.
People who do cling to alternate explanations usually do so without considering the cumulative absurdity of their position. They refute each evidence of God on an individual basis, proposing an alternate explanation at each point, but they fail to perceive how increasingly improbable is their cumulative case. While each alternate explanation may be possible from a purely logical perspective, each alternate explanation carries with it (as we shall see) a high degree of improbability. Taken individually, each improbable explanation may be barely acceptable, but taken together, the cumulative result is that the improbabilities multiply rather than merely add together (this is how the theory of statistical probability works).
In the case of the seven pieces of evidence I will be examining, when seven highly improbable alternate explanations are considered as a cumulative case against God’s existence, the improbability of the argument multiplies to the point of statistical absurdity. In a court of law, if a judge is presented with, on the one hand, a single, simple explanation for all the evidence and, on the other hand, a counter argument involving an increasingly unlikely series of coincidences and improbable explanations, it is the simple explanation that will secure the verdict every time.
So it is with the evidence for God’s existence. In the end, these seven powerful pieces of evidence have a single, simple explanation that is the most logical and statistically probable: that the universe has as its ultimate cause, an all-powerful Creator God. I hope you will find the discussion of these seven pieces of evidence helpful and inspirational, at whatever point you are in your own journey of faith.
My ensuing articles on the seven pieces of evidence will necessarily be brief and highly summarised. For a full discussion of the evidence for God’s existence, see my book: “7 Reasons to Believe”, available as an eBook or paperback.