This is the eighth post in a 15-week study. More information and resources can be found here.
A quick note to those of y’all who are not participants:
– Please read along as we go through the study chapter by chapter, and contemplate the questions we’ll be tackling. This is good stuff!
– We will be utilizing the comment section as a forum for discussion for the participants only. I respectfully ask – if you are not participating – that you refrain from commenting on the Reason for God posts, simply to help keep things well… simple.
– We have an incredible group of women representing various ages, faith backgrounds and life experiences – I hope you’ll check out all they have to say.
It is my prayer that the participants, as well as those of y’all who will be reading along, will contemplate your own faith and understanding of God in a new, and more purposeful way. If you have any questions about the study, or about God in general, feel free to email me from the link in the right sidebar.
“How can we believe in Christianity if we don’t even know whether God exists?” asks author Timothy Keller at the beginning of chapter eight. And he proceeds to lay out a series of clues – “divine fingerprints” – that point to the existence of God. Although Keller admits that there is no absolute proof of the existence of God, these clues provide the world with compelling evidence that God does, indeed, exist.
The Mysterious Bang
Curious minds have, for centuries, pondered the existence of the universe. And in the wake of the Big Bang theory, these questions have only intensified. In his book, The Language of God, scientist Francis Collins says, “I can’t imagine how nature, in this case the universe, could have created itself. And the very fact that the universe had a beginning implies that someone was able to begin it. And it seems to me that had to be outside of nature.” (p.133)
The universe is a gigantic mass of contingent entities – entities having a cause outside of themselves. So something had to be the catalyst for the Big Bang. But what? “What could that be but something outside of nature, a supernatural, non-contingent being that exists from itself,” says Keller (p.133) And this non-contingent being is admittedly not necessarily the God of the Bible… but it is a clue to the existence of something beyond the natural world.
The Cosmic Welcome Mat
The probability of organic life to exist – with all the fundamental regularities and constants of physics that are necessary to maintain life – is infinitesimally small. And yet, here we are. “When you look from the perspective of a scientist at the universe, it looks as if it knew we were coming. There are 15 constants – the gravitational constant, various constants about the strong and weak nuclear force, etc – that have precise values. If any one of those constants was off by even one patron a million, or in some cases, by one part in a million million, the universe could not have actually come to the point where we see it,” explains Francis Collins (p.134).
Of course, this argument is rationally avoidable if one believes in one of the many rebuttals. Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins speculates that there may be trillions of universes. And while there is no proof that these many universes exist, there is also no proof that they do not.
Keller poses the question, “Although organic life could have just happened without a Creator, does it make sense to live as if that infinitely remote chance is true?” (p.136)
The Regularity of Nature
“All scientific, inductive reasoning is based on the assumption of the regularity (the “laws”) of nature, that water will boil tomorrow under the identical conditions of today… Without inductive reasoning we couldn’t learn from experience, we couldn’t use language, we couldn’t rely on our memories,” begins Keller. And most people do not find this truth to be troubling. But philosophers do because the continued regularity of nature is not something that can be proven, it must be taken on faith.
The Clue of Beauty
If God does not exist, and the world in which we live happened by pure accident, then what we refer to as “beauty” is only a hardwired response to data, nothing more. We can take this further and apply it to what we refer to as “love”, rendering it a simple bio-chemical response, passed down from our ancestors who capitalized on it to survive.
But. “We may, therefore, be secular materialists who believe truth and justice, good and evil, are complete illusions. But in the presence of art or even great natural beauty, our hearts tell us another story,” says Keller (p.138) Quite another story. Keller goes on to describe the “blessed longing” evoked in these experiences: “…we not only feel the reality but also the absence of what we long for.” (p.139)
St. Augustine described these unfulfilled longings in his Confessions as clues to the reality of God. “We have a longing for joy, love, and beauty that no amount or quality of food, sex, friendship or success can satisfy. We want something that nothing in this world can fulfill. Isn’t that at least a clue that this ‘something’ that we want exists? This unfulfillable longing, then, qualifies as a deep, innate human desire, an that makes it a major clue that God is there.” (p.139)
The Clue Killer
The school of evolutionary biology theorizes that everything about us is merely a function of natural selection. And if we do possess inclinations toward religious feelings, it is only as a result of a genetic code that helped people survive and pass on that DNA. “However, there are many who believe not only that the clue-killer argument has a fatal contradiction in it, but that it actually points to another clue for God.” (p.141)
Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, admits that the influence of natural selection, “…we can’t completely trust our own senses. After all, evolution is interested only in preserving adaptive behavior, not true belief.” (p.141). The full implications of this insight are staggering, and actually counter the original clue killer assertion. “If our cognitive faculties only tell us what we need to survive, not what is true, why trust them about anything at all?” (p.142)
The Clue-Killer is Really a Clue
If our belief-forming faculties mislead us in one area – e.g. our religious inclinations are unreliable and only present because they somehow helped our ancestors survive – then we should not trust those faculties in any area. If God does not exist, we would be unwise to trust our cognitive faculties at all. But we do, and Keller calls this the final clue. “If we believe God exists, then our view of the universe gives us a basis for believing that cognitive faculties work, since God could make us able to form true beliefs and knowledge. If we believe in God, then the Big Bang is not mysterious, nor is the fine-tuning of the universe, nor the regularities of nature. All the things that we see make perfect sense.” (p.145)
Keller acknowledges that none of the clues laid out in this chapter are absolute proof of God, and that each one is rationally avoidable. But collectively, they are certainly weighty. And belief in God makes sense of them all, the secular viewpoint does not. “The theory that there is a God who made the world accounts for the evidence we see better than the theory that there is no God. Those who argue against the existence of God go right on using induction, language, and their cognitive faculties, all of which make far more sense in a universe in which a God has created and supports them all by his power.” (p.146)
Question: Do any of these “clues” resonate with you? Do you have another clue that has led you to a deeper faith in God?
My response: Hmmm. Clues, in this sense, have not really been a part of my story. Because I don’t think I ever believed that God did not exist. Now there have been many times, I am grieved to say, that I have ignored Him, discounted Him or disobeyed Him. But I always knew He was there — possibly far off, but most definitely there.
In terms of the clues that Keller describes, the one that I can relate to most is the “Clue of Beauty”. There have been many times over the years that something has simply taken my breath away. A sunset. A horse running in a field. An ocean view. A glimpse into the soul of my child. So much beauty it positively overwhelms.
And each time He allows this supernatural beauty to pierce an otherwise ordinary day, I am reminded that it is but a minuscule reflection of the beauty that is God.
Here is the button for the participants who will be linking up to the study. Grab the code, paste it into your Reason for God post and link up below.