Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Systematic Theology--Chapter 9

The Existence of God
How do we know that God exists?

A. Humanity's Inner Sense of God

  • All persons everywhere have a deep, inner sense that God exists, even unbelievers.
    • Romans 1:21: For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
    • Romans 1:25: because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
    • Romans 1:19: For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.
  • Scripture recognizes that some people deny this inner sense and even deny God's existence, but this is a willful suppression of the truth.
    • Romans 1:23: and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
    • Romans 1:28: And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.
    • Romans 1:32: Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
    • Notice the active verbs in each verse.
  • In the life of a Christian this inner awareness of God becomes stronger and more distinct.
    • We first begin to know Him 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)
    • We come to know Jesus Christ living within our hearts (Ephesians 3:17; Philemon 3:8-10; Colossians 1:27; John 14:23)
    • The intensity of this awareness is such that though we have not seen our Lord Jesus Christ, we indeed know him and love him (1 Peter 1:8)
B. Believing the Evidence in Scripture and Nature

  • Evidence that God exists is of course found throughout the Bible.
  • The world itself also gives abundant evidence of God's existence.
    • Romans 1:20: 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.
    • Man himself, created in the image of God, most abundantly bears witness to the existence of God
    • Nature offers excellent evidence as well
      • Acts 14:17: Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.
      • Psalm 19:1-2: The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. 
  • Everything in Scripture and everything in nature proves clearly that God exists and that he is the powerful and wise Creator that Scripture describes him to be. Rejection of these evidences doesn't mean that the evidence is invalid, only that those who reject it are evaluating it wrongly.
C. Traditional "Proofs" for the Existence of God

  1. The cosmological argument considers the fact that every known thing in the universe has a cause and therefore must have been created for a purpose by God.
  2. The teleological argument is a subcategory of the cosmological argument. It focuses on the evidence of harmony, order, and design in the universe, and argues that its design gives evidence of an intelligent purpose. Therefore, it must have been created to function this way by an intelligent and purposeful God.
  3. The ontological argument begins with the idea of God, who is defined as a being "greater than which nothing can be imagined." It then argues that the characteristic of existence must belong to such a being, since it is greater to exist than not to exist.
  4. The moral argument begins from man's sense of right and wrong, and of the need for justice to be done, and argues that there must be a God who is the source of right and wrong and who will someday mete out justice to all people.
  5. Because all of these arguments are based on facts about the creation that are indeed true facts, we may say that all of these proofs (when carefully constructed) are, in an objective sense, valid proofs. They are valid in that they correctly evaluate the evidence and correctly reason to a true conclusion--in fact, the universe does have God at its cause, and it does show evidence of purposeful design, and God does exist as a being greater than which nothing can be imagined, and God has given us a sense of right and wrong and a sense that his judgment is coming someday. The actual facts referred to in these proofs, therefore, are true, and in that sense the proofs are valid, even though not all people are persuaded by them. (p. 143-144)
D. Only God Can Overcome Our Sin and Enable Us to Be Persuaded of His Existence

  • In this sinful world, human wisdom alone is inadequate for coming to know God.
  • 1 Corinthians 2:5: so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
  • We are dependent upon God to remove the blindness and irrationality caused by sin and to enable us to evaluate the evidence rightly, believe what Scripture says, and come to saving faith in Christ.

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