Does God exist? There are some outspoken atheists who will loudly proclaim that God does not exist. They purchase advertising space on buses to get their “good news” out that God does not exist. While certain atheists are very vocal about and antagonistic against faith in God, their number is actually quite low. The percentage of the population that hold to firm atheism has not changed very much.
There are some Christians who have never doubted the existence of God. They grew up in the church, were conscious of God’s presence and have had full confidence in God’s existence.
I suspect that most of us are more in the middle, perhaps moving back and forth throughout our life.
Is it okay to doubt? It absolutely is. We see people like John the Baptist and Thomas in the Bible having doubts about Jesus. When it comes to belief in God, think about what we are claiming. There is this invisible and all-powerful and all-knowing being who is everywhere all at once.
I think that some doubt is good.
Think about some of the heroes of the faith in recent history. Mother Theresa was one of the most respected Christians of all time. After her death, letters were published revealing her doubts about God. Billy Graham has preached to more people than anyone else. But early in his career, after his friend and colleague Charles Templeton abandoned the faith, Billy Graham wrestled with his doubt. Despite this, these two have made a huge impact in our world for God.
While there are Christians who become atheists, I don’t think the problem is that they had doubts. The problem was likely that there was not a safe space in the church to ask hard questions and wrestle with their doubts. I believe opening a space to talk about our struggles will help people far more than shutting down the conversation out of fear of where it will lead.
I don’t want this to be a lecture on Christian apologetics. There is a place for that but this is not it. Instead, I’m going share my journey of faith. The short version is that I grew up in the church, became an atheist in my teens, came to believe in God while in university and then committed myself to Jesus a couple of years after that. The things that helped me believe may not be the same that convince you, but they may give you hope that the answers are out there.
The truth about me is that I’m a skeptic. I don’t believe something just because someone says it. I’m the guy who after reading some claim posted on Facebook, does the research to see if it was true and then post the correct information on the person’s wall. I can be quite annoying.
My original slip into atheism was skepticism about heaven and the afterlife. This eventually led me to discount God’s existence. I didn’t expect to ever regain faith in God.
I still remember the moment my faith in God returned to me. I was getting a ride to Brock University. During the drive, I used my imagination to go back in time to the beginning of the universe. I wasn’t thinking about Genesis or the Bible. I was trying to imagine the Big Bang and how that began. I thought about the improbability of our immense universe coming into existence by itself. If there was a Big Bang, perhaps there was a Big Banger.
I didn’t know the science then but further research proved my hunch to be correct. For a long time scientists had been going with the assumption that the universe was eternal and without beginning. If there was no beginning, you don’t need anyone to begin it. But throughout the 20th century, a huge amount of scientific evidence demonstrated that the universe had a beginning. Not only did it have a beginning, the nature of the universe is so precise that it is the only way it could be and still allow life. Even scientists who don’t believe in God will admit that the universe looks suspiciously fine-tuned.
The existence of the universe was a start, but not quite enough to knock me completely out of my atheism. But on that same drive, I thought about this world. I thought about all the life on this planet, plant and animal. I thought about the complexity of the human body. Again, I used my imagination to go back in time to the primordial soup that covered our planet and the random mixture of chemicals that could form one celled life that led to all that we see now. Notice that I was not thinking in terms of the Bible, I was looking at it without any doubts about evolution. I realized that to remain as an atheist, I had to accept that all of the life that we see around us had to have come about by accident. In that moment I realized that I didn’t have enough faith to be an atheist. The skepticism that once drew me away from God was now drawing me back to God. When I stepped out of the car at Brock University that day, I had lost my atheism and was now a theist. I was not a Christian, I simply believed in some generic god who started the universe and created the first life. I didn’t know it at the time but I was experiencing a two-stage conversion, from atheism to theism and then from theism to Christianity, that one of my heroes C.S. Lewis experienced.
Resurrection of Jesus
Since I am now a pastor, I can assure you that I indeed became a Christian. I won’t go into the details now of that part of my conversion, as I want to focus on belief in God.
While scientific and philosophic reflection played a part in my belief in God, I’m neither a scientist nor a philosopher. If there is a discipline that resonates with me, it is history. History makes more sense to me. We can look at the evidence and put it together to try and reconstruct the actual evidence. If only there was some historical evidence for God.
Christianity is more than just belief in God. Christianity centres on the person of Jesus. Jesus was a person who appeared in history. We have the approximate dates of his birth and death. He interacted with other historical figures that we know from other sources.
But again, Christianity is much more than just belief in a religious teacher named Jesus. Christianity has it’s foundation with the death and resurrection of Jesus.
The historical evidence for the death of Jesus on a Roman cross is pretty clear. But just his death on a cross is not enough to point us to God. There were thousands of Jews who were crucified by the Romans during the first century. We need something more.
What we need is the resurrection. Some will claim that the resurrection is not a matter of history but of pure faith. But that is not true. The claim is not that people felt Jesus in their hearts or saw visions. Rather it is that Jesus bodily rose from the dead and was seen by hundreds of witnesses, some of whom we know by name.
I have looked at the alternative theories that attempt to explain the appearances of Jesus on the third day and they are all rather weak. To me the evidence points to Jesus having been raised from the dead. While one my try and suggest that this resurrection took place without the involvement of God but my skepticism does not allow me to go there.
Those moments that I wake up in the middle of the night wondering if God really exists, my mind naturally wanders to the evidence of the resurrection of Jesus and I return to sleep in peace.
Why do I believe in Jesus? All of the reasons that I have shared are part of the equation. But there is one more part that has become stronger every year that I have been a Christian. I experience God on a regular basis.
Some Christians don’t like experience because it is too subjective. While I wouldn’t want to put my entire faith on experience, I do believe that it is a powerful argument for the existence of God.
What do I mean by experience? I have reached out to God, often without any great faith, and God has responded. I’m not talking about audible voices or burning bushes or talking crosses. Rather I have prayed prayers and God has responded in very specific ways. No, I have not every prayer answered the way I had asked. But our family has called out to God is some desperate times and God has rescued us. This has included things such as financial provision in tight times and safety for our children in dangerous moments.
I wish I could say I was a man of great faith who boldly prays for God involvement. Many of my prayers have been, “God you probably won’t do anything, but we could use some hep in this specific area.” Despite my weak faith, or perhaps because of it, God has responded in powerful ways. Because of how God has intervened in our life over the years, I don’t know how I could return to atheism.
Does God exist? I would say that God does indeed exist. Do I ever have doubts or questions? Sure I do. God created me with a skeptical nature and these questions come. But looking at this evidence and so much more that I have not mentioned, I’m confident that God does exist.
Where are you on your faith journey? You may be a confident Christian, a Christian with questions, a seeker, a skeptic, an agnostic or an atheist. I only ask you to keep an open mind. Consider the evidence and allow it to take you where it leads. Seek the truth. And I would encourage you to reach out to God and ask him to show himself. You may be surprised at what he does.