This is the second study on the Explore God Chicago 2019 series. The Explore God Chicago 2019 is a Community Outreach Initiative that seeks to answer seven important questions about God, faith, and purpose. You can find these seven important questions here. The first study in this series dealt with the question: “Does Life Has a Purpose?” Today I address the second question: “Is there a God?”
Many people today doubt whether God exists. The reason for this doubt about the existence of God is because of the skepticism that exists in the world today about spiritual matters. People question the value of religion and this skepticism leads them to deny the existence of God.
People who deny the existence of God struggle with the question of rational belief. To them, faith is either meaningless or impossible. Those who deny the existence of God also deny that there is life after death. They also struggle with the issues of religious values, miracles, and the role of the church in society.
Denying the Existence of God
When it comes to the existence of God, those who deny that there is a God generally fall into two groups: agnostics and atheists.
The word “agnostic” comes from two Greek words meaning “without knowledge.” Agnostics declare that no person can know for sure whether God exists. The only way to prove that God exists is through supporting, objective, or testable evidence.
The word “atheist” comes from two Greek words meaning “no god.” Atheists reject the view that God exists. In fact, atheism rejects the view that gods, true or false, ever existed. Some atheists grew up believing in God but left the faith because they came to the conclusion that faith in God is meaningless and for this reason, they left the church and abandoned their belief in God. Some people are atheists because they grew up in homes where their parents did not believe in God and so they were never taught that there is a God.
Atheism is not a new movement. In fact, the psalmist said: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1). The psalmist here depicts the atheist as one who denies the existence of God. Not only has he denied that there is a God, but in the very depths of his heart he has convinced himself that there is no God.
The psalmist calls the person who says that there is no God a “fool.” The Hebrew word for “fool” is “nabal,” a word that could be translated as “empty-headed.” The person who says that there is no God is a fool because that person ignores all the evidence that God exists, refusing to accept the evidence that is found all over the created world.
It is this evidence that led the famous atheist Antony Flew to become a believer in God. After many years of denying the existence of God, Flew came to the conclusion that there is a God. To chronicle his journey from atheism to theism, Flew wrote a book in which he discusses three compelling evidences that show that God exists. The title of his book is: “There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind.”
The Journey of an Atheist
Antony Flew was a British philosopher and a famous atheist who became a believer in God a few years before his death. Flew was a promoter of atheism. While attending classes at Oxford, Flew participated in the meetings of the Socratic Club, the club where C. S. Lewis and a group of students came together to discuss “the intellectual difficulties connected with religion and with Christianity.”
It was in one of the meetings of the Socratic Club that Flew presented a paper, “Theology and Falsification,” in which he argued that claims about the existence of God cannot be tested for truth or falsehood. Flew’s argument in “Theology and Falsification” was that the existence of God could not be proven until evidence for God’s existence could be found.
A few years before he died, Antony Flew found the evidence he was looking for. In 2008 Flew wrote a book, There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind, acknowledging that he had moved from atheism to theism. In a statement about his journey to theism, Flew said that his conversion was the result of his “growing empathy with the insight of Einstein and other noted scientists that there had to be an Intelligence behind the integrated complexity of the physical Universe” and “my own insight that the integrated complexity of life itself – which is far more complex than the physical Universe – can only be explained in terms of an Intelligent Source.”
Three Evidences for the Existence of God
According to Flew, three things convinced him of the existence of an Intelligent Source: the origin of life, the Big Bang Theory, and the laws of nature. In what follows, I introduce the three reasons why an atheist affirmed that there is a God.
The Origin of Life and the Existence of God
The first reason Flew presented for changing his mind was that “recent work on the origin of life pointed to the activity of a creative Intelligence” (p. 74). One question that became the basis for his journey back to God was “How did life as a phenomenon originate from nonlife?” According to Flew (pp. 90-91), “the origin of life cannot be explained if you start with matter alone.” This declaration was made at a symposium in May 2004 in New York. In that symposium Flew declared that he believed in the existence of God because recent studies reveal that the complex DNA arrangements required to produce life demand that a creative Intelligence be involved.
When Flew was asked if studies on the origin of life pointed to a creative Intelligence, he answered (p. 75):
Yes, I now think it does . . . almost entirely because of the DNA investigations. What I think the DNA material has done is that it has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life), that intelligence must have been involved in getting these extraordinarily diverse elements to work together. It’s the enormous complexity of the number of elements and the enormous subtlety of the ways they work together. The meeting of these two parts at the right time by chance is simply minute. It is all a matter of the enormous complexity by which the results were achieved, which looked to me like the work of intelligence.
The Big Bang Theory and the Existence of God
Another question that made him embark on his pilgrimage toward theism was the issue “that philosophers handed over to cosmologists: How did the universe, by which we mean all that is physical, come into existence?” The answer that Flew provides is a reformulation of the old cosmological argument for the existence of God. Those who deny the cosmological argument affirm that anything that can be known about the origin of life, the nature of the universe, and the laws of nature can be known without admitting the possibility of the existence of a transcendent reality beyond human understanding.
The cosmology that came out of the big bang theory made an impact on Flew’s understanding of the creation of the universe. The more Flew thought about the implications of the big bang the more he began to realize that the words of Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” were true (by the way, this is the only biblical text quoted in Flew’s book). As an atheist, Flew believed the universe did not have a beginning and as long as he believed that, there was no reason to ask what caused the universe to come into being.
However, the development of the big bang cosmology changed the situation. Flew wrote: “If the universe had a beginning [with the big bang], it became entirely sensible, almost inevitable, to ask what produced this beginning.” Flew’s discovery of God has come through an understanding of the structure of the universe. This structure, according to Flew, is a map that leads to the discovery of the Divine. He wrote (p. 155): “I have followed the argument where it has led me. And it has led me to accept the existence of a self-existent, immutable, immaterial, omnipotent, and omniscient Being.”
The Laws of Nature and the Existence of God
The third reason that led Flew to re-evaluate his views on atheism was the constancy of the laws of nature. Flew asked: “How did the laws of nature come to be?” By laws of nature Flew means the regularity and symmetry that exist in the universe. He wrote: “The important point is not merely that there are regularities in nature, but that these regularities are mathematically precise, universal and ‘tied together.’” This, according to Flew (p. 96), is the question scientists from Newton to Einstein have been asking and their answer was one and the same: it was “the Mind of God.” Or, as Stephen Hawkins said in his book, A Brief History of Time, the day human beings discover the reason the universe exists that will be their greatest accomplishment, for then they will know “the mind of God.”
This question is in a sense, a reformulation of the classical argument from design for the existence of God. The argument from design states that the apparent order in nature requires the existence of a Designer. Although Hume, Kant, and Flew himself have done much to discredit the argument from design, Flew said (p. 95) that “when correctly formulated, this argument constitutes a persuasive case for the existence of God.”
Flew’s affirmation that there is a God and the reasons he offered to believe in an Intelligent Source should force people everywhere to pause and consider the arguments he presented for the existence of God. Atheism is the refusal to live by God’s sovereignty and to rely more on one’s own wisdom.
Paul gives a good description of people who deny the existence of God. He wrote:
They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools (Romans 1:19-22 NLT).
There is a God and the evidence for his existence is everywhere. If you still doubt whether God exists, then ask Antony Flew and he will say to you: “There is a God.”
If you want to read more about Antony Flew and his journey from atheism to belief in God, look at my series of studies on his journey to faith: Studies on Antony Flew.
Claude F. Mariottini
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
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