THE EXISTENCE OF GOD from Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology
THE EXISTENCE OF GOD How do we know that God exists?
THE EXISTENCE OF GOD • 1. All people have an inner sense of God. • 2. We believe the evidence that is found in Scripture and in nature.
THE EXISTENCE OF GOD • A. Humanity's Inner Sense of God • Gentile unbelievers "knew God" but did not honor him as God or give thanks to him (Rom. 1:21) • Wicked unbelievers have "exchanged the truth about God for a lie" (Rom. 1:25), implying that they actively or willfully rejected some truth about God's existence and character that they knew.
THE EXISTENCE OF GOD • Paul says that "what can be known about God is plain to them," and adds that this is "because God has shown it to them" (Rom. 1:19). • Some people deny this inner sense of God and even deny that God exists. It is "the fool" who says in his heart, "There is no God" (Ps. 14:1; 53:1).
THE EXISTENCE OF GOD • Sin leads people to think irrationally and to deny God's existence • Sin will cause people to deny their knowledge of God: he speaks of those who "by their wickedness suppress the truth" (Rom. 1:18) and says that those who do this are "without excuse" for this denial of God (Rom. 1:20).
THE EXISTENCE OF GOD • In the life of a Christian this inner awareness of God becomes stronger and more distinct. We begin to know God as our loving Father in heaven (Rom. 8:15), the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirits that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16), and we come to know Jesus Christ living within our hearts (Eph. 3:17; Phil. 3:8, 10; Col. 1:27; John 14:23). The intensity of this awareness for a Christian is such that though we have not seen our Lord Jesus Christ, we indeed love him (1 Peter 1:8).
THE EXISTENCE OF GOD • B. Believing the Evidence in Scripture and Nature • The evidence that God exists is of course found throughout the Bible. • The world also gives abundant evidence of God's existence. Paul says that God's eternal nature and deity have been "clearly perceived in the things that have been made" (Rom. 1:20).
THE EXISTENCE OF GOD • In addition to the evidence seen in the existence of living human beings, there is further excellent evidence in nature. • "The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge" (Ps. 19:1-2).
THE EXISTENCE OF GOD • C. Traditional "Proofs" for the Existence of God • If it is true that sin causes people to think irrationally then these proofs are attempts to cause people to think rationally or correctly about the evidence for God's existence, in spite of the irrational tendencies caused by sin.
THE EXISTENCE OF GOD • Most of the traditional proofs for the existence of God can be classified in four major types of argument: • 1. The cosmological argument considers the fact that every known thing in the universe has a cause. Therefore, it reasons, the universe itself must also have a cause, and the cause of such a great universe can only be God.
THE EXISTENCE OF GOD • 2. The teleological argument is really 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 (the Greek word telos means "end" or "goal" or "purpose"). Since the universe appears to be designed with a purpose, there must be an intelligent and purposeful God who created it to function this way.
THE EXISTENCE OF 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. (below, [9:2])
THE EXISTENCE OF GOD • 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.
THE EXISTENCE OF GOD • 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, but not one of them is able to compel agreement from everyone who considers them. • The value of these proofs lies chiefly in overcoming some of the intellectual objections of unbelievers.
THE EXISTENCE OF GOD • D. Only God Can Overcome Our Sin and Enable Us to Be Persuaded of His Existence • God must enable us to be persuaded or we would never believe in him. We read "the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ" (2 Cor. 4:4).
THE EXISTENCE OF GOD • ". . . since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe" (1 Cor. 1:21). In this sinful world, human wisdom is inadequate for coming to know God. Thus, Paul's preaching came "in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God" (1 Cor. 2:5).
THE EXISTENCE 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.
THE EXISTENCE OF GOD • Scripture Memory Passage • Romans 1:18-20: For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
THE KNOWABILITYOF GOD Can we really know God? How much of God can we know?
THE KNOWABILITY OF GOD • A. The Necessity for God to Reveal Himself to Us • Paul says that what can be known about God is plain to people "because God has shown it to them" (Rom. 1:19). The natural creation reveals God because he chose to have himself revealed in this way.
THE KNOWABILITY OF GOD • "No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him" (Matt. 11:27). • The necessity for God to reveal himself to us also is seen in the fact that sinful people misinterpret the revelation about God found in nature.
THE KNOWABILITY OF GOD • Those who "by their wickedness suppress the truth" are those who "became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened ... they exchanged the truth about God for a lie" (Rom. 1:18, 21, 25). Therefore, we need Scripture if we are to interpret natural revelation rightly. • The Bible alone tells us how to understand the testimony about God from nature.
THE KNOWABILITY OF GOD • B. We Can Never Fully Understand God • Because God is infinite and we are finite or limited, we can never fully understand God. In this sense God is said to be incomprehensible where the term incomprehensible is used with an older and less common sense, "unable to be fully understood."
THE KNOWABILITY OF GOD • "Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable" (Ps. 145:3). • "Great is our LORD, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure" (Ps. 147:5). • David says, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it" (Ps. 139:6; cf. v. 17).
THE KNOWABILITY OF GOD • It is not only true that we can never fully understand God; it is also true that we can never fully understand any single thing about God. • Job says that God's great acts in creating and sustaining the earth are "but the outskirts of his ways," and exclaims, "how small a whisper do we hear of him! But the thunder of his power who can understand?" (Job 26:14; cf. 11:7-9; 37:5). • Thus, we may know something about God's love, power, wisdom, and so forth. But we can never know his love completely or exhaustively.
THE KNOWABILITY OF GOD • This doctrine of God's incomprehensibility has much positive application for our own lives. It means that we will never be able to know "too much" about God, for we will never run out of things to learn about him, and we will thus never tire in delighting in the discovery of more and more of his excellence and of the greatness of his works.
THE KNOWABILITY OF GOD • For all eternity we will be able to go on increasing in our knowledge of God and delighting ourselves more and more in him, saying with David as we learn more and more of God's own thoughts, "How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand" (Ps. 139:17-18).
THE KNOWABILITY OF GOD • Paul tells us that if we are to lead a life "worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him," it must be one in which we are continually "increasing in the knowledge of God" (Col. 1:10).
THE KNOWABILITY OF GOD • C. Yet We Can Know God Truly • All that Scripture tells us about God is true. • It is God himself whom we know, not simply facts about him or actions he does [God’s person & actions are compatible].
THE KNOWABILITY OF GOD • Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth; for in these things I delight, says the LORD. (Jer. 9:23-24)
THE KNOWABILITY OF GOD • Scripture Memory Passage • (Verse 3 of this passage tells us that God can never be fully known, but the fact that David is praising God and speaking to him shows also that he does know true things about God and does have a personal relationship to him.)
THE KNOWABILITY OF GOD • Psalm 145:1-3: I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name for ever and ever. Every day I will bless you, and praise your name for ever and ever. Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.