Sermon: Life Question 1 - Does God Exist?

Many have yet to find God. Some are even unsure if He is out there to be found. The Apostle Paul encountered the same confusion and uncertainty when he walked among the idols at Mars Hill in Athens. As we reflect on that question we should consider the options.

Sermon series: Life Questions

  1. Does God Exist? - Acts 17
  2. What is Truth? - John 8, John 18
  3. Who Am I? - Psalm 8, Hebrews 2
  4. Why Am I Here? - Ecclesiastes
  5. What Happens When I Die? - 1 Corinthians 15
  6. Are All Religions Equal? - Acts 17

Scriptures: Acts 17

Introduction

In February 2009 a group of scientists gathered at Chicago's Fermilab to conduct experiments to discover the "God particle."

Also know as the Higgs boson, physicists believe that the God particle is a special subatomic particle that "allows all other particles in the universe" to bond together and have mass. In short, they are searching for the matter that keeps all other matter from becoming anti-matter.

All atoms consist of protons, electrons, and neutrons. Beyond that, seventeen subatomic particles have been discovered [six uncharged leptons, six charged quarks and five force-carrying bosons].

They believe that by smashing these particles into each other they can replicate the supposed "Big Bang." What they can't understand is how matter comes together and maintains its integrity. They theorize that the "God particle" is a charged particle that pulls matter together. They admit, however, that should they prove that the Higgs boson does not exist, they will have to create a new theory to explain "how atoms congeal into matter."

The spokesman for Fermilab, a physicist, assessed their progress with an ongoing question from his mother, "Have you found God yet?" The answer is simply, no. Maybe they're looking in the wrong place. [Parade, "The Race for the Secret of the Universe," July 26, 2009, 4]

Unfortunately, many have yet to find God. Some are even unsure if He is out there to be found. This, of course, is not a new development. The Apostle Paul encountered the same confusion and uncertainty when he walked among the idols at Mars Hill in Athens. As he walked across the hill, he passed a vacant altar [Acts 17:23] with the inscription, "To the unknown God."

That monument illustrates humanity's quest to answer the question, "Does God exist?" As we reflect on that question we should consider the options.

I. The choices before us

In short, there are only three possible answers to the question.

A. The atheist says, "No" - 17:16, 29 "idols"

The atheist considers all concepts of god just human inventions. See 17:29 - Paul contrasts the true God against anything conceived or created by man.

America saw the atheist coming out on April 8, 1966 with Time magazine's provocative black, pictureless-cover bearing the words "Is God Dead." The question was a reference to Friedrich Nietzsche's much-quoted postulate "God is dead" [He first proposed this notion in his 1882 book "The Gay Science.]"

B. The agnostic says, "Maybe"- 17:18a "Epicureans and Stoics"

These two philosophies believed that if a god or gods do exist, the deities were impersonal and removed from human experience. Humans, according to them, could not know the gods and the gods were not overly concerned with humans.

C. The advocate says, "Yes" - 17:17 "he reasoned"

Paul declared with authority and certainty that God is real and that He has invaded human existence to redeem fallen humanity by His Son, Jesus.

But is this just an academic exercise? What difference does one's view of God's reality matter?

II. The consequences of belief -17:30-31

Francis Schaffer said, "Ideas have consequences." And no concept or thought has the significance of the existence of God.

The answer to this question will affect our understanding of other significance issues. What's more, our answer will determine our belief about a host of other significance questions including:

A. Eternity: Is there life after death? Is there a heaven and a hell?

See 17:31. Luke wrote that God "has set a day" for judgment.

B. Morality: What is right and wrong?

When Paul said God "commands," [17:30] he indicated that God has established rules for us to follow. In essence, God tells us what behaviors are right and wrong for us.

C. Relationships: Should I commit to a relationship?

Consider the marriage vows. If God doesn't exist then our vows to each other are illegitimate and worthless.

D. Religion: Which religion is right?

People will worship any "idol" [17:16]. At some point we must ask about the validity of our objects of worship.

E. Purpose

F. Truth: What is truth?

Ideas do have consequence. And the absence of the knowledge of God has serious consequences. This past October [2009] five boys, ages 13 to 15, in Miami set a boy on fire because he told on one of them for stealing a bicycle. They found the young man near a swimming pool and held him as they poured rubbing alcohol over his body. They then set him on fire. Although he jumped into the pool to put out the fire, the boy suffered burns over 60% of his body.

What's worse is the lack of conscience of the five regarding their behavior. While in jail, only one of the five expressed any remorse for his actions or compassion for the burned boy. It was reported that the other four boys were laughing about what they had done. This is a microcosm of a world with God.

III. The case for the existence of God

Someone might ask, "Is there any proof or why would we believe in God?"

A. One biblical observation: The Bible never attempts to prove the existence of God.

From the very first verse [Genesis 1:1]; God is presented as a reality.

B. Four extra-biblical arguments for God's existence

1. The concept of God [The Ontological argument - see 17:22-23].

Why do the vast majority of cultures have a concept of God and morality? How do we account for the inherent knowledge of God? Some have suggested that this vast knowledge of God is due to a "God-shaped vacuum" in the human heart. The Apostle Paul would say that this is true because God as revealed Himself to us [Romans 2:18-22]

2. The origin of Matter [The Cosmological argument – see 17:24].

One absolute scientific reality is that everything comes from something. Charles Ryrie writes, “If something now exist [the cosmos] then it either came from nothing or it came from something that pre-existed.” [“Basic Theology,” Ryrie, 29] Maybe a picture can clarify this argument.

                    Cause              Effect

Option one:  Nothing           the world

Option two: Something       the world

Incidentally, which of those two options requires more faith? If we use observable science as our standard of proof then we must conclude that everything we see in the natural world indicates that everything has an antecedent. And God is the ultimate something that precedes everything.

3. The evidence of design [The Teleological argument - see 17:24].

Our world is full of complexity. And within that complexity we find incredible order. Logic tells us that order and design in the universe point us to a designer. Ryrie adds, "Random action could never have produced the highly integrated organization which we observe in the world." [31]

Consider a pack of toothpicks. They lay in order within the box. Suppose I place a firecracker in the box and set it off. What is the probability that that explosion will create a toothpick bridge? ZERO! Order does not result from chaos. Instead, design points to a designer.

4. The uniqueness of humans [The Anthropological argument - see 17:28-29].

Humans differ from the whole of creation in that we possess intellect, moral judgment, self-awareness and the knowledge of God. How can we honestly explain the differences without acknowledging a God of like being? Consider our moral conscience. Animals don't have a moral objection to stealing or killing. We do. Consider our intellect. How can we possibly suggest that our minds have evolved beyond all animal species when dolphins possess echolocation?

Those are philosophical arguments, but is there any concrete proof that: [1] God exists, [2] the God of the Bible is the real God, and [3] Jesus is truly the Son of God? ABSOLUTELY.

C. One indisputable historical evidence: The Resurrection of Christ - 17:31.

The resurrection validates and proves the existence of God as revealed in the Holy Scriptures. Ultimately, Christianity rises or falls on the reality of the resurrection.

In April 2002, the well-respected Oxford University philosophy professor Richard Swinburne used a broadly accepted probability theory to defend the truth of Christ's resurrection. He did this at a high-profile gathering of philosophy professors at Yale University.

"For someone dead for 36 hours to come to life again is, according to the laws of nature, extremely improbable." Swinburne then used Bayes' Theorem to assign values to things like the probability of God being real, Jesus' behavior during his lifetime, and the quality of witness testimony after Jesus' death. Then he plugged the numbers into a probability formula and added everything up. The result was a 97 percent probability that the resurrection really happened. [Emily Eakin, "So God's Really in the Details?" The New York Times, May 11, 2002]

Conclusion

When Charles Colson, onetime Watergate criminal-turned-founder of Prison Fellowship, is challenged about the truth of Christ's resurrection, he responds, "My answer is always that the disciples and 500 others gave eyewitness accounts of seeing Jesus risen from the tomb. But then I'm asked, ‘How do you know they were telling the truth? Maybe they were perpetuating a hoax.' " Colson says, "My answer to that comes from an unlikely source: Watergate."

He writes: "Watergate involved a conspiracy perpetuated by the closest aides to the president of the United States - the most powerful men in America, who were intensely loyal to their president. But one of them, John Dean, turned state's evidence, that is, testified against Nixon, as he put it, ‘to save his own skin' - and he did so only two weeks after informing the president about what was really going on! The cover-up, the lie, could only be held together for two weeks, and then everybody else jumped ship to save themselves. Now, all those around the president were facing was embarrassment, maybe prison. Nobody's life was at stake."

"But what about the disciples? Twelve powerless men, peasants really, were facing not just embarrassment or political disgrace, but beatings, stoning, execution. Every one of the disciples insisted, to their dying breaths, that they had physically seen Jesus bodily raised from the dead. Don't you think that one of those apostles would have cracked before being beheaded or stoned? That one of them would have made a deal with the authorities? None did. Men will give their lives for something they believe to be true; they will never give their lives for something they know to be false."

"The Watergate cover-up reveals the true nature of humanity. Even political zealots at the pinnacle of power will, in the crunch, save their own necks, even at the expense of the ones they profess to serve so loyally. But the apostles could not deny Jesus, because they had seen him face to face, and they knew he had risen from the dead."

"No, you can take it from an expert in cover-ups - I've lived through Watergate - that nothing less than a resurrected Christ could have caused those men to maintain to their dying whispers that Jesus is alive and is Lord. Two thousand years later, nothing less than the power of the risen Christ could inspire Christians around the world to remain faithful - despite prison, torture, and death. Jesus is Lord: That's the thrilling message of Easter. It's a historic fact, one convincingly established by the evidence - and one you can bet your life upon." [Charles Colson, BreakPoint Online Commentaries, April 29, 2002]

Jerry Gifford is senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Franklin, Kentucky. Jerry holds degrees from Western Kentucky University and Liberty Baptist Seminary. He and his wife, Tammie, have two sons, Daniel and David. He is passionate about his family, spiritual renewal, discipleship, preaching, basketball, and water sports.