To piggyback on Bonald’s post below:
At his blog, our Proph recently reposted an item that linked to an essay of mine at the old Intellectual Conservative. Since the old IC was taken down by evil leftist (but I’m redundant) hackers, Proph’s link to my essay is dead. So here is my old IC essay. Its basic thrust: When atheists claim there is no evidence for God, they are assuming atheism at the beginning, looking at life through atheist-colored glasses, and then seeing nothing but atheism. They are being supremely illogical.
No Evidence for God?
Atheism now has a confession of faith. Christians say “Jesus is Lord.” Moslems say “There is no God but Allah.” And English-speaking atheists now say “There is no evidence for God.” But are they correct?
The ultimate truths cannot be proved, if the word “proved” means “established by formally valid reasoning either to be certain or beyond reasonable doubt.” Ultimate truths must be presupposed, not proved, since the process of formal reasoning either never ends—leaving us with no knowledge—or else it ends with statements that are not formally proved. Therefore we must either presuppose God, or presuppose atheism.
But it would be more accurate to say theists presuppose that God is possible, and atheists presuppose the impossibility of God. Call these “informal” presuppositions. Since he is not omniscient, man could be mistaken and so he must consider the evidence before taking a stand. Before he considers the evidence, the theist assumes God is possible, and allows at least some of the evidence to speak to him. But most of the atheists who argue publicly for atheism assume that God is impossible, judge all evidence by atheistic standards, and accordingly dismiss even the valid evidence. Since man is not omniscient, this position is illogical.
This error of assuming atheism is not committed only by those who are consciously atheistic. Most contemporary thought assumes that only the physical is “really real,” and that God is not a matter of objective reality but rather subjective opinion. Since this position permeates the intellectual atmosphere, most people absorb this way of thinking without noticing it unless they discover and then hold on to a different tradition of thought.
There is also the matter of authority. The chain of authority either terminates with man, (leaving us with provisional knowledge, because man often changes his mind), or else it terminates with God. The atheist presupposes atheism, and takes man as his authority. The Christian acknowledges God and His Word—the Bible—as his authority.
(The chain of authority cannot terminate with nature because nature is not an authority. Nature simply is; it makes no claim to know anything.)
In the sense of formal reasoning, ultimate truths can only be presupposed. To presuppose something is to make it the starting point of the formal process of reasoning. In formal reasoning, we say “A is true, therefore B is true. And since B is true, C must be true,” and so on. A presupposition is the starting point of a chain of reasoning, and it cannot be proved in the sense of saying “Omega is true, therefore A is true,” for then Omega, not A, would be the presupposition.
But although we do not prove them formally, we must test presuppositions; otherwise we will have no rational way to decide which presuppositions are the truest. If we cannot test presuppositions then we will have to adopt them based on our emotions, or in some other non-intellectual way.
How then do we test a set of presuppositions? A set of presuppositions will generate a system of thought consisting of the presuppositions together with the statements that are consequences of them. And the system can be tested in two basic ways.
One way is to check the system for consistency, for a system that contradicts itself cannot be valid. The other way is to compare the system with our intuitive knowledge. We know, and live by, certain basic truths that we know by intuition, and a system within which it is impossible for us to live consistently—for example, a system which requires us to deny that the laws of logic or morality are objectively real—must be invalid.
It is true that intuition can lead us astray. Man often “just knows” something that turns out to be false. But all knowledge is, in a sense, based on our primitive awareness of basic truths, an awareness that does not result from a formal process of reasoning. And this “primitive awareness of truth” is what we mean by intuition, at least valid intuition.
We can, for example, know by intuition that if A is greater than B and B is greater than C, then A is greater than C. This principle cannot be validated piece by piece; it is simply grasped all at once, by intuition. There cannot be any empirical or scientific evidence against this principle; it is in fact a basic requirement for us to be able to understand empirical or scientific evidence. Similar comments apply to all the basic laws of logic, and to other basic truths.
But the ultimate truths about God, morality, the meaning of human life, and similarly weighty matters require more than intuition. These truths are more complex and multifaceted than the example above, and they interrelate with many areas of life. They cannot be grasped all at once, contrary to what some mystics assert. Therefore truths such as these must be grounded in an organized system of thought.
So how do we compare the presupposition of atheism with the presupposition of God’s existence? To proceed by formal reasoning we compare the two systems based on these two presuppositions to see which system works best. This project requires a great deal of knowledge and intellectual sophistication, and it is beyond the scope of this essay.
But proceeding informally, according to the way most people think, we compare the presupposition of God’s possibility with the presupposition of His impossibility.
At the start, if we compare atheism with theism, the two sides appear equal. And since God is not immediately tangible, and since we can imagine religion being a fabrication, it might even appear that the atheist has the advantage.
But the two sides are not equal, nor does the atheist have the advantage. The atheist says there is no God, but how can he know? The atheist and the theist agree that the material world exists and has the physical properties that it does. It is the atheist who makes the additional claim, the claim that God and the supernatural do not exist. Since man is not omniscient, a universal negative cannot be assumed. The atheist’s claim requires support, whether it is the formal claim of atheism or the informal claim of the impossibility of theism.
Atheists generally attempt to give rational support for their claim in two basic ways: By asserting that the concept of God is contradictory and therefore no God can exist, or by asserting that the facts of reality can be explained adequately on the presupposition of atheism. But the existence of God is not illogical unless you presuppose atheism. And it is only possible to explain all of reality on atheistic premises if you arbitrarily declare to be unreal all phenomena that point to the supernatural. The “No!” of atheism cannot be justified in these ways.
It would appear that most atheists are aware of the inadequacies of the two ways described above, because there is a third way by which most atheists currently attempt to justify themselves. It is this way that is the main subject of this essay.
“There is no evidence for God, therefore I’m an atheist.” That’s the claim of the majority of (English-speaking, at any rate) “public” atheists, that is, atheists who argue publicly for their position. They do not claim to have a disproof of God. Although a small minority of atheists do claim such a disproof, most atheists simply claim an absence of evidence for God and think themselves justified in unbelief.
But there is much evidence for God, and (assuming he’s not grossly ignorant or dishonest) the atheist’s claim of no evidence is based on a defect in his mode of thinking rather than an absence of evidence. This defect is commonly called “materialism,” “naturalism,” or sometimes “physicalism,” and it is the error of assuming a priori that only matter exists, along with its events and properties. When the atheist finds fault with the various theistic proofs it is usually because he implicitly assumes materialism and then judges the evidence and arguments by this standard. Since “materialism” is pretty much a synonym for “atheism” (few people take seriously the idea of a god made of matter), the atheist assumes atheism before he looks at the evidence. Looking at life through atheism-colored glasses, he naturally sees only atheism.
The atheist may not be aware that he is making this assumption. But when we judge atheists by their public words we see that they are indeed assuming materialism. Atheists commonly make such statements as “all evidence must be empirical,” or “only science can discover objective truth,” or “only objective, repeatable evidence can be accepted.” [To the atheist, objective = empirical = sense-based = materialistic.] All of these statements assume materialism, because they contain the words “all” and “only.” Theists, of course, acknowledge that empirical, scientific and repeatable evidence can be valid. But the materialist goes beyond this, saying that all valid evidence must be of these forms. This is why it is the materialist who bears the burden of proof.
The atheist may not be aware that his materialism is not automatically true, but must be subjected to some form of testing to see whether it is a valid philosophical system. When the suggestion is made that the atheist must give rational support for his materialist assumptions he often responds with incredulity or anger, as if the falsehood of materialism is literally unthinkable.
As a result, the atheist’s thinking is circular. He rejects the evidence for God by assuming that all evidence must be interpreted atheistically, that is, materialistically. He assumes the result that he thinks he is validating.
We can sympathize with the atheist to a certain extent. Empirical, material reality is easier to understand than transcendent reality. Much nonsense is said about God and other transcendent matters. And the supernatural is potentially a threat, as it may contain elements that are both hostile and dimly understood, and against which man may lack adequate defenses. It feels safer to deny the supernatural altogether, and only believe in the tangible.
But it is not reasonable to deny the supernatural. Since man is not omniscient, he cannot assume the supernatural to be nonexistent. He must examine the evidence without assuming atheism.
With anti-supernaturalism shown to be unwarranted, belief in God becomes possible, and we can examine the evidence. Of course, God exists whether or not we acknowledge Him. But since we are not omniscient we need some evidence before we can properly believe. And clear thinking about God is possible if we make the effort to become acquainted with theology, the intellectual discipline of thinking about God, especially as contained in God’s supreme revelation of Himself, the Bible. Through study of the Bible man can know what he needs to know about transcendent matters and how to protect himself from spiritual dangers.
(The most important way a man can protect himself from spiritual danger is through faith in Jesus Christ. But that is a topic for another essay.)
Atheists sometimes ask, Why attack atheism? After all, an atheism that is privately held is not a problem for society. The author has no public quarrel with an atheist who expresses his atheism as a private opinion. But nowadays many atheists are arguing that others ought to agree with them. Public atheism is most certainly a threat, because a properly ordered society is impossible without widespread, officially-encouraged belief in God, and the resurgence of liberalism that has so harmed Western societies in the last fifty years is made possible in large measure by the retreat of public theism. Therefore we theists need to be more aggressive.
This aggressiveness includes being more certain of ourselves and confident in the goodness of our position. Public advocacy of atheism must be sharply rebuked, not just courteously disagreed with.
The purpose of this essay is not to prove the existence of the God of the Bible in the sense of showing that the evidence has the result that one is required to acknowledge God. That is, we can distinguish three cases: No evidence for God, some evidence for God but not enough to make acknowledging Him obligatory, and sufficient evidence for God that one is required to acknowledge Him. This essay shows that the first option is false. There is plenty of evidence for the God of the Bible. But establishing that one is obligated to acknowledge Him is philosophically, theologically and psychologically complicated. It will be enough here to demolish the atheist’s foundation by showing that evidence for God does exist.
This discussion is unavoidably philosophical, although not in a highly technical sense. But the topic of God is too important to be restricted to professional philosophers. All men need to think correctly about God, and clear thinking about fundamental matters is by definition philosophy. Furthermore, a significant part of contemporary professional philosophy consists of ideas created in part to evade the reality of God. A prime example of this would be materialism itself. Since there obviously exist many real things that are not matter (e.g., minds, laws of logic), some philosophers have crafted tools that permit them to appear to acknowledge the real existence of these entities without giving up their commitment to materialism. Thus, for example, they may speak of the mind as an “emergent property” of matter,” meaning “Although mind is not the same as material events of the brain, the two can never be separated,” and therefore (so they say) you never get mind without matter, such as would be the case with God.
While emergence may be a legitimate concept in some cases, it is here being used to evade reality: mind really exists but is non-material.
To criticize the assertion “There is no evidence for God,” the two key points to be defined are, of course, “evidence” and “God.” By “God” I mean ultimately the God of the Bible, but it is enough at the beginning to establish evidence for a personal, nonphysical being of immense power and knowledge, if not omnipotence and omniscience. These last two terms, by the way, do not mean “being able to do, or knowing, anything.” Not even God can know the properties of a square circle or be able to make a rock so heavy that He cannot lift it. An omniscient being only knows everything that can be known, and an omnipotent being can only do anything that can be done. But man does not know the exact limits of what can be known or done.
To say that God is personal is to say, among other things, that He has intellect, will and emotion. To say that He is nonphysical is to say that He has no body, and is not a property of matter. Atheists typically claim that these properties of God are illogical because they assume that nonphysical personhood is impossible. But that is to commit the basic error that is the subject of this essay: to assume the answer ahead of examining the evidence and arguments. There is no logical contradiction in asserting a nonphysical person.
Once we establish the existence of a being who is non-material, personal, omniscient and omnipotent, we would need to establish that the only such being is the God described in the Bible. That is a different argument for a different day. It is enough here to demonstrate that there is abundant evidence for God.
The second key definition gets to the heart of the matter. Atheists typically demand that evidence be empirical, a word that basically means “based on experience” or, as the atheists generally take it, “based on sense perception.” But it is a serious mistake to offer a precise definition of “evidence.” Any precise definition will mean that the definer knows reality before he examines it. To say, for example, that all valid evidence must be empirical is to assume ahead of examining the evidence that reality is only physical. But of course you don’t know that until you examine the evidence with an open mind, that is, with a mind open to the possibility that the supernatural (non-material) is real.
Therefore there can be only one fully valid definition of evidence: Anything that validly points to something else. That “pointing to something else” is a primitive concept that cannot be precisely defined without invalidly restricting knowledge. We can enumerate successful examples of one thing being evidence for another. We can enumerate unsuccessful examples. And we can indicate types of evidence that are generally valid (e.g., the scientific method), and types that are generally invalid. But only an omniscient being could give a fully accurate definition of “evidence.”
So that it won’t be too long, this essay will discuss only two lines of evidence for God: the cosmological proofs and the teleological proofs. There are many other lines of evidence for God, but to disprove the atheist’s claim of no evidence it is more than enough to demonstrate that two common lines of evidence are generally valid. The basic approach in both cases is to show that these lines of reasoning provide commonsense evidence for God and that the most common responses from atheists assume materialism without giving any proof, and are therefore invalid rebuttals of the evidence.
The various cosmological proofs of God all have the following basic form:
The existence of every contingent thing is only possible because of something else that caused it.
[“Contingent” means “does not exist necessarily.”]
The chain of cause and effect must have an initial cause, for otherwise the process would not start.
[“Initial” could mean first in time, or first metaphysically.]
And the initial cause is uncaused, or else it would not be initial.
Therefore an uncaused being exists.
And an uncaused being would have to be God.
Cosmological proofs can unofficially be categorized as “highbrow” or “lowbrow.” In the “highbrow” versions we reason abstractly that the chain of cause and effect cannot be infinite. Since it is easier for atheists to generate pseudo-objections to the highbrow proofs by claiming that they are nothing but words without real referents, this essay will examine the lowbrow proofs.
The basic lowbrow cosmological proof of God proceeds as follows:
Science has established that the physical cosmos is not eternal (indeed, that it cannot be.)
Therefore there was a time when neither matter, energy (in the sense of science), space nor time existed.
But everything that is not eternal must have a cause.
Therefore the physical cosmos of matter, energy, space and time had a cause that is outside of matter, energy, space and time.
This argument does not prove that the cause of the cosmos is the God of the Bible, but it does establish that the cause has several of the most important attributes of that God: immateriality, immense power and knowledge if not omnipotence and omniscience, and atemporality (being outside of time). Therefore there is evidence for God, contrary to the atheist’s claim.
Let us examine the most common responses of atheists to this evidence.
The most common response is “We do not know anything about the cause of the cosmos. Therefore God is not proved.” But we do know something about the cause: it is outside of matter, and yet it is real. The atheist is actually saying, “Under the assumption of materialism (i.e., atheism), we do not know anything about the cause.” He is reasoning in a circle.
Atheists also often appeal to the speculative theories of advanced physics. According String Theory, the universe we know, with its three dimensions of space and one dimension of time, might be “embedded” within a larger domain that contains many additional dimensions of both space and time. According to String Theory, the universe we know could have been created by some aspect of the larger domain in which it is embedded. There would thus be no need to resort to a non-physical, non-spatial supernatural realm.
Three points, though, effectively parry the atheist’s thrust. First, there is no empirical evidence whatsoever for the actual existence of this larger domain. It is hypothesized entirely on the basis of abstract mathematical theorizing based on extensions of theories that are known experimentally to be valid for the ordinary world with which we are familiar. True, this does not prove that the wider domain does not exist. But the consistent materialist, for whom only empirical evidence counts, will have to reject the existence of the realms postulated by String Theory.
Second, consider what it would mean for a domain with, for example, six dimensions of space actually to exist. It would mean, among other things, that a six-dimensional being would be capable of suddenly materializing in our three-dimensional space. For example, he could appear suddenly in a locked room, with no windows, that contains his disciples. Such a being would be, for all practical purposes in our world, supernatural. Therefore if the multidimensional domain of String Theory really existed, it would be, for all practical purposes, supernatural.
And String Theory, like all theories of contemporary physical science, assumes materialism without proving it. When the atheist resorts to String Theory to avoid the conclusion of a God who caused the Big Bang, he is assuming without proof the atheism for which he argues.
It is also common for atheists to ask, “Then what caused God?” The answer is that it is necessary for there to exist something that is eternal, for otherwise, if everything is temporal, then there must have been a time when absolutely nothing existed. But since nothingness cannot cause existence to begin to exist, this cannot be the case. And since we have ample evidence that the cosmos is temporal (not eternal) but no evidence that God is temporal, we may assume God is eternal, having no cause.
The atheist then replies “If your God can be eternal, then why can’t my cosmos also be eternal?” Because the empirical evidence upon which the atheist relies shows that the cosmos is not eternal, having begun approximately 15 billion years ago. That which begins to exist requires a cause; that which does not begin to exist does not require a cause.
Teleological Proofs or Arguments from Design
“Teleology” means “purpose” or “goal.” In a teleological proof we observe that something which obviously was not created by man has an evident purpose or design. Life itself is perhaps the best example; even the atheists admit that life, from the cellular level to the whole organism, always looks as if it were designed by an intelligent creator.
A teleological proof continues by pointing out that we never observe design occurring spontaneously in nature. Natural processes either conserve an already-existing design (as during reproduction), produce mindless repetitions of basic patterns (as during the generation of crystals) or else do not generate any design. And the mutations that occasionally occur during reproduction do not generate new designs, but only trivial degradations of existing designs. Therefore the design must have been produced by an intelligence that preexisted nature. Since it existed before the material realm existed, the super-natural intelligence must possess several of the key characteristics of God. Therefore there is evidence for God.
We can dispense with the atheist’s claim that we do not know anything about the designer. We do know that it existed prior to the life (and other order) that it produced; therefore it was an intelligence that existed before material life on Earth. And even if the creator of Earth’s life was a material being from another planet (a claim for which there is no evidence), this creator must have been designed by something prior. The ultimate origin of life must have been from a non-material intelligence. Therefore there is evidence for God.
The atheist’s main attempted rebuttal of this argument is to claim that Darwinian processes can account for all life in a purely material way; therefore life is no evidence of God.
But how does the atheist know that all life is actually accounted for by Darwinian processes? The Darwinian mechanism of random mutations plus natural selection may seem a plausible explanation, but how does the atheist know that’s what really happened? Since the scientist cannot observe all of the development of life on Earth, there can be only one reason for his confidence that Darwinian theory is a correct description of all that really happened: He assumes that only matter exists, in which case something like Darwinian evolution (a vast sum of tiny random changes) is the only possible way life could have developed.
Once again, the atheist is assuming, without proof, the result he is claiming to prove. The development of life only fails to be evidence for God if you assume that God cannot be the correct explanation, i.e., if you assume materialism. The atheist argues in a circle.
A more sophisticated atheistic rejoinder is “Then wouldn’t God Himself require a designer?” That is, if God requires no designer then allegedly neither does life. But the chain of designers, like the chain of causes, must terminate with a One Who is not designed. And we know that life requires a designer because although Darwinism assumes that nature generated design in the unobserved past, we never observe nature generating design now, so there is no reason—other than a presupposition of atheism—to believe that nature generated design in the past.
We have seen that there is evidence for God, and that the common responses of the atheists are invalid rebuttals of the evidence because they assume atheism without proof. The typical contemporary atheist is, in a sense, under a spell. It’s the spell of materialism. Only when the spell is broken can the atheist begin to acknowledge the plentiful evidence for God.
The next time you read or hear an atheist arguing against theism, listen for this mistake, the mistake of assuming his conclusion without giving any evidence. The odds are very good that he will be making this mistake.
OK, so there is evidence for God. Therefore what?
Therefore the God of the Bible exists.
True, this essay does not prove it, not in the sense that the reader is now intellectually required to acknowledge God. All we have done is point to some of the evidence. But there is much more evidence supporting the general concept of a God. And there is much evidence for the God of the Bible. It can be shown that the alleged errors of the Bible are due to willful misinterpretation by those who want to find errors. It can be proved that the Gospels were not modified over the years, as some would like to believe. It can be demonstrated that the Biblical evidence is consistent with what science has actually proved (as opposed to what some scientists want to be true). A biblical worldview does a much better job than any rival of accounting for morality and logic. And so on.
But although the evidence for Him is overwhelmingly plentiful, people ultimately do not believe in the God of the Bible because of evidence. Most people reject the valid evidence for God because they don’t want to believe, not because the evidence is inadequate.
The Bible makes it clear that people believe in God because He gives them the gift of faith (“faith” = “trust based on knowledge”), a gift that enables them to accept the evidence for God. Without the gift of faith, man hates God and he consequently rejects even the evidence for God that is obviously valid, including the evidence given here. With faith, a man can accept the valid evidence and draw the proper conclusion.
But God does not give faith just by “waving His magic wand.” He usually uses secondary means to generate faith, and He often uses a process whereby false beliefs are gradually abandoned and replaced with true beliefs. If you the reader find yourself with a sincere interest in examining the evidence for God, it could be because He is using these evidences to begin generating in you a saving faith in God and his Son, Jesus Christ, who atoned for our sins on the Cross.
There is a vast set of literature arguing successfully for the God of the Bible. Here are a few resources. Note that most of the best arguments for God are contained in books of a more general nature, typically books that defend all of Christianity.
The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel
What’s so Great about Christianity by Dinesh D’Souza
Reasonable Faith by William Lane Craig
Scaling the Secular City by J. P. Moreland
Christian Apologetics by Norman L. Geisler
The Last Superstition by Edward Feser
Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis
Summa Theologica by Thomas Aquinas
Natural Theology by William Paley
Pensées by Blaise Pascal
Special mention Apologetics 315 is the best Christian apologetics website. Note especially, on the top right of their home page, their list of “Must-Visit Pages,” including a long list of recommended books
 These terms differ somewhat in their exact meanings, but for present purposes they all mean that the material is all that exists.
 This point needs to be supported, but the present essay is already long. I presume the perceptive reader understands that it is correct.
 The exact mechanism by which this could be done is somewhat technical, so it is omitted.
 See. e.g., Ephesians 2:8,9 or I Corinthians 12:8,9
 Even the man who loves the general idea of god hates the God of the Bible. See, e.g., Romans 8:7