Christians believe in God, but can we prove that God exists? Christians believe that God is known only through Jesus Christ, but can we prove that our religion is right and that all other religions are wrong? Christians believe that the Bible is God’s Word, the only reliable source of information about God, but can we prove that the Bible is true and dependable, without any human errors?
One problem with proof is that it is difficult to judge. No one is impartial on these questions. People either believe these things or they do not believe them. Much evidence can be offered to show that God exists, that he is known only through Jesus Christ, and that the Bible is God’s Word. Christians find great comfort in this evidence. Unbelievers seem always able to counter with evidence against Christianity which they find more persuasive. Frequently, conversations involving God and proof degenerate into two clear lines of battle, each side convinced that it is armed with the stronger and better evidence for its position.
A second problem with proof is that God is above such matters. Proof relies on reason and logic, and reason and logic themselves have their origin in God. God is not less than reasonable, but he is more than reasonable. Therefore, reason cannot fully grasp the truth about God. The existence of God cannot be detected in a laboratory. He is the Almighty Being, not the subject of some experiment. If some people are unable to detect God in the universe, the problem is not with God. The problem is with the method they are using to search for God.
The third problem with proof is that believers do not need proof. We already know from experience that God exists, that he is known through Jesus Christ, and that the Bible is God’s Word. We take these things for granted, because their truth is a familiar part of our lives every day. You need no proof that your best friend exists, or that the members of your family who you see every day exist. You encounter them and interact with them. In a similar way, Christians encounter God and interact with God, making proof of his existence entirely unnecessary.
If believers do not need proof, and unbelievers do not acknowledge proof, then why even discuss the existence of God or the other beliefs that Christians regard as important? Two reasons can be given to look at the proof. First, it reinforces and strengthens faith to consider the proof of what is true. Second, it makes conversation possible between believers and unbelievers. Those who have firmly decided not to believe will not be swayed by the most convincing evidence. Others, however, are willing to maintain an open mind. As they consider the proof, they might meet God himself and find themselves in a relationship with him.
Of the many ways of demonstrating the existence of God, four classic proofs are seen by Christians as fully convincing. First, the existence of creation requires that there be a Creator. No one can build a watch by dropping the pieces of a watch into a bag and then shaking the bag until chance brings the pieces together to form a working watch. Likewise, believing that the sun, the moon, the earth, and all the living beings on the earth are merely the results of a string of random events requires far more faith than belief in a Creator. The very order in the universe is a second proof for the existence of a Creator. Creation attests to the intelligence and wisdom of God, to his creativity and sense of beauty, and even to his sense of humor. Third, the existence of personality in some created beings reveals that the Creator also must have personality. As a stream does not rise above its source, so personality cannot randomly appear in the universe. It must have its origin in something similar. Fourth, the distinction between good and evil, between right and wrong, is proof of the existence of God. People do not make their own rules—or, when they do, other people point out that those rules are wrong. For anything to be wrong in the universe, there must first be a Source of what is right. Wrong is then identified as anything that contradicts that Source or rebels against him.
Granted that a God exists, how is one to know which of the many religions in the world are correct? Are they each right about some things and wrong about others? Are they merely stating the same truths with different cultural forms? Or is one religion clearly right, making all the other religions wrong? Those who study religion often distinguish between beliefs, practices, and ethics. While beliefs and practices vary greatly among religions, ethics seem to be roughly the same in all religions. All religious people believe that what is holy should be honored. All religious people believe that they should be kind and helpful to one another. The “Golden Rule”—that each person should treat others the way he or she wants to be treated—is stated by nearly every great religious teacher throughout history. Religious people know that they should do what is right. They know they should not do what is wrong. Most religions, however, teach that if someone has done something wrong, they must try again to do what is right. The uniqueness of Christianity is the message of redemption. Only Christians believe in a God who sacrifices himself to rescue his people from all that is wrong. Other religions tell stories about gods visiting their people. Many religions tell stories about the death and resurrection of a god. Only Christianity proclaims that God won a victory over evil and shares that victory with undeserving sinners. For this reason, when discussing religious teachings with unbelievers, it is helpful to skip over the proofs of God’s existence and start with Jesus of Nazareth: the proof that he existed (which few historians doubt), the proof that he began the movement which is known as Christianity, and especially the proof that Jesus died and was buried, but on the third day he rose again from the dead.
What proves that the Bible is God’s message to his people, a book to be treated differently from all other books, a book to be used to evaluate all other books? Only the Bible and the Quran claim to be God’s true messages. (They contradict each other. The Christian Bible identifies Jesus as the Son of God, but the Quran quotes God as saying that he has no sin. Both books cannot be right.) Buddhists and Confucians and Daoists and Hindus have spiritual writings, but they are not considered to be truth in written form. Of course anyone can write a book that claims to be a message from God. The fact that the Bible says it is God’s Word should not, by itself, convince anyone that it truly is God’s Word. As a historical document, though, the New Testament reliably reports what early Christians believed. The four Gospels began to be circulated at a time when some people could still remember seeing Jesus and hearing him speak. Even if the New Testament had no authority as God’s Word, the New Testament still describes the respect Jesus had for Moses and the prophets. He regarded them as authoritative, to be trusted and obeyed and followed. He used them as the source for all reliable information about God. In the same way, Jesus himself authorized apostles to be his messengers. He gave them authority to share his message as Moses and the prophets had earlier been given authority. The attitude of Jesus toward Moses, the prophets, and the apostles shapes the attitude of Christians today toward the words and the message of the Bible.
Many more things can be written on all three of these topics. In fact, long books cover these and other religious issues. This, though, is intended just as an introduction of one way to discuss proof as it relates to Christian beliefs. When discussing such truth, many unbelievers will try to lead the conversation away from Jesus. They would rather talk about ethics, or about science, or about different cultures and their different beliefs. For the Christian, the Key is Jesus. When talking about religion, we want always to be talking about Him. J.