Should we use science and philosophy to support the existence of God or only the Bible?
Most of the time when I speak about apologetics, or even just more broadly on reasoning through the claims Christians make about the world, I’ll get an objection. This objection might just be a person’s face, where you can clearly see the person disagrees with the approach being taken, or someone will talk to me afterwards. A lot of times this objection comes from a Christian who does not like the fact that I’m using science or philosophy to support the existence of God. Some people even more fundamentally just object to giving reasons for the existence of God or for why we should trust the Bible. Instead, they say, “Well, that’s something we take on faith.
I want us to think through this today. How should we think about how we support the existence of God? Now, on the one hand I think there are inappropriate ways to do this. I think there are ways that try to make Christianity look enticing by appealing to a person’s sinful desires. I do not like the arguments for Christianity that say something like, “Well, don’t you want peace in your life? Don’t you want happiness? Don’t you want fulfillment? Don’t you want to not go to hell?” I don’t like those types of appeals. I do think there are proper and improper types of arguments or appeals.
Should we give reasons?
The first thing I want to address is, “Why should we give reasons for Christianity?” Sometimes for the person who objects to the giving of reasons they’re very comfortable giving you reasons why you shouldn’t give reasons for the truthfulness of Christianity. Doesn’t that just strike you as odd? A person would be comfortable telling you why you shouldn’t give reasons but they don’t feel comfortable giving reasons for the hope they possess. That’s almost self-contradictory.
I Peter 3:15 tells us to be prepared to give an answer, to give a well-reasoned defense, an apologetic, for why we believe what we believe. More than that, this is also the pattern of scripture. Paul gives reasons for why people should believe Christianity. When he does this he isn’t always only quoting the Bible. He’s reasoning from other places, like philosophy, or the natural world. Should the Christian only use the Bible to support the existence of God, or can we use other things? Well, I think even from the Bible you can support the idea that the Bible isn’t the only source of truth. Is it the ultimate authority? Most certainly, but it is not the only way that we come to know things.
Should we use science
The first step I want to look at today is science. How should we use science in supporting the existence of God? Well, a great way and, indeed, one of my favorite ways is the cosmological argument, more specifically the Kalam cosmological argument that we’ve looked at before. It’s a simple three-line way of reasoning to the idea that there must be a God. It goes like this,
- Whatever begins to exist has a cause,
- The universe began to exist;
- Therefore, the universe has a cause.
Now, we’re not going to go into that today. We’ve covered it before. We do need to be able to support each of those premises. We do need to be able to support the idea that everything that begins to exist has a cause. We do need to be able to support the idea that the universe began to exist. If we support those two premises and they’re true, then the conclusion must be true.
What we’re doing here is using philosophy and scientific evidence to support these premises, and we’re using a philosophical idea and argument, a logical argument, to come to the conclusion that there must have been a creator. I can’t help but think this is the same type of thing Paul’s doing in Romans 1 when he says,
“For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness, because what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, namely His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen because they are understood through what has been made.”
People are without an excuse. Paul holds people accountable for knowing there’s a God. What does he say tells us there’s a God, in part? The natural world. We can actually know things about God apart from the Bible. In fact, as Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens testify to the glory of God. The sky displays his handiwork.” Paul picks on this theme here in this passage we just looked at and says we should be able to know there’s a God from creation, and then we’re held accountable for that when we suppress that truth.
All the cosmological argument is doing is formalizing this observation Paul has made into a logical, well-reasoned argument. It’s the same type of thing. Paul’s pointing to something outside of scripture to argue for the existence of God, and that’s the same thing we’re doing when we use a philosophical or scientific argument. That doesn’t mean that science is our ultimate authority, or that philosophy is our ultimate authority, because these two things, science and philosophy, actually depend on the existence of God. They cannot operate independently from him. Now, certainly you can do science and probably do it pretty well and deny the existence of God. However, from a totally well-reasoned point of view science can’t actually work and exist without the existence of God.
There’s an episode I did previously called Sitting In God’s Lap to Slap Him in His Face, and it covers that idea that science itself depends on the existence of God. I’m not going to rehash that today. Briefly, just to summarize my point there, in order for science to work the universe has to be orderly, work consistently, and not just be random. Things can’t be popping into existence for no reason with no cause. The only way that works is if the universe was created. The very fact that science depends on an orderly universe means there must have been an orderer of that universe.
All of creation points to the creator.
The very fact that we’re here is an excellent argument for God’s existence.
Should we use morality?
It is not inappropriate to use science to support the existence of God. Well, what about morality? Morality is taught in scripture but morality itself is able to be known apart from the Bible. Now, we’re not going to get every little detail right apart from scripture. We do need God’s divine revelation to us for that, but God has created us with a moral sense, and this is where the moral argument for God’s existence comes in. This is how that goes.
- If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist,
- Objective moral values do exist;
- Therefore, God exists.
I don’t think I’ve covered that on the podcast yet, but it’s certainly covered in my book.
Here’s the simple version. All humans have a moral sense. Now, sometimes It’s miscalibrated, but we internally and objectively know that certain things are right and certain things are wrong. Now, some people deny that truth just like they deny the existence of God that is clear from creation, as Paul said. Paul also says that the law’s written on our hearts, that we innately know right from wrong.
People react very strongly when they are wronged. This points to us having been created by God, because just as creation requires a creator, moral law requires a moral law giver. We can actually reason from the existence and knowledge of morality back to the moral law giver of God. That could depend on the Bible, but you can make that argument apart from scripture, too. This shouldn’t surprise us because what we’re trading on here with this idea of morality and knowing it is only possible if God created us. There’s no other good explanation for why morality exists or how we can know it.
Should we use philosophy?
Science, far from being an argument against the existence of God, actually depends on the existence of God. Paul uses an argument from the natural world, what you could call observational science, to argue for God. We can use that too, in the form of the cosmological argument, which is also a philosophical argument which takes us to our third point: what about philosophy?
Some people are okay using evidence in the world via science to demonstrate God’s existence in part, but often the most pushback comes when we talk about philosophy, because there are many different philosophical ideas. Some people have in mind Colossians 2:8 when Christians start using philosophy. This is where Paul says,
“Be careful not to allow anyone to captivate you through empty, deceitful philosophy that is according to human traditions and the elemental spirits of the world and not according to Christ, for in Him all the fullness of deity lives in bodily form. You have been filled in Him who is the head over every ruler and authority.”
Gosh. There is so much we could say there. We could camp out here for a week. Here’s the point I want to make first off: the idea that you can’t use philosophy to argue for the existence of God or that it’s wrong to use philosophy to argue for the existence of God is itself a philosophical idea. The person objecting to your use of philosophy is employing a philosophy of their own – a system of thought and ideas. That’s kind of self-refuting. This is back to “we can’t give reasons for God’s existence but we’ll give reasons for why we can’t give reasons for God’s existence” (that’s quite the tongue twister). That’s the same type of thing you hear when people say, “It is wrong to use philosophy to argue for the existence of God.”
Paul doesn’t actually make that point in Colossians 2:8. Knowing the context can make this a little more clear, but simply reading the words he says can, too. He says, “Don’t let anyone take you captive through an empty, deceitful philosophy,” not just any philosophy but one that’s empty and deceitful and one that’s, “according to the human traditions and elemental spirits of the world and not according to Christ.” Well, what this implies is there is a philosophy that is “according to Christ” and a philosophy that is “empty and deceitful and not according to Christ.” The question becomes, how do you tell the difference? How do you know if a philosophy is of the world and empty or if it is of Christ and not empty?
I would say that the philosophy that is not empty is the one that has scripture for it’s foundation, that understands that the only reason the world is knowable is because of Christ.
The only reason the world is here is because of Christ.
The only reason man has worth is because God created him.
The only way that morality works is if God has a moral law.
All of these Christian viewpoints that are a part of our worldview actually depend on Christ. We can use philosophy, a godly philosophy, a philosophy that would not work if God did not exist, but philosophy nonetheless. When we use the laws of logic we’re actually using something that depends on something that’s grounded in God’s nature. Logic itself exists and is grounded in the person of God in Christ.
We just read in Colossians 2, but earlier in Colossians 1 Paul has made the point, a philosophical point, that everything holds together in Christ. He created everything. It was created for Him. He’s before all things. It all holds together, subsists in Him. Everything that exists is held together in Christ.
Every fact that is a fact, is a fact because of Christ. The very fact that knowledge is possible depends on an orderly universe, depends on us having a mind, which depends on us being created in the image of God. It is not inappropriate to use philosophy.
Now, there are inappropriate philosophies. Paul’s actually addressing one right here in Colossians 2. It’s not a coincidence that he says, “Don’t let anyone take you captive through an empty, deceitful philosophy that is according to human traditions and the elemental spirit of the world and not according to Christ,” because the next thing he says is, “For in Him all the fullness of deity lives in bodily form.” You see, Paul right there is using a Christ-centered philosophy to combat an empty philosophy of the day, because one of the heresies of the day was known as Gnosticism, which said that the physical was evil. This idea that all that it means to be God, all that it means to be a deity, could live in a physical body was denied by the Gnostics, at least in part, because God would not touch physical stuff.
In fact, in creation God had intermediaries, on a Gnostic view of the world, because He couldn’t be close to matter, it would tarnish Him. Right here Paul is addressing an empty philosophy, one that said that the fullness of God could not dwell in bodily form. He is saying, “No, the fullness of God created everything. The fullness of God holds it all together.” That was Colossians 1. Now in chapter 2: even the fullness of God dwells in His creation. That’s a philosophical view. He’s saying, “Physical things are not evil, in fact they were created such that they could hold all that it means to be God.“
Paul uses philosophy to argue for God. He does this in Acts 17 at the Aeropagus. He does this in Romans 1 when he reasons from the natural world. He also brings in observational science. He reasons, in chapters 2 and 3 of Romans, from morality and a moral sense. We can use all of these things to argue for God if we have a Christ-centered philosophy which says that everything depends on Him, that nothing would exist or could exist apart from Him and that there’s no meaning that’s not ultimately grounded in Him. The observations we come up with from the natural world should all fit in a Christian worldview, because what God has spoke in nature, the book of his works, is going to perfectly accord, properly understood, with the book of God’s Words in scripture.
God has spoken in two ways. The heavens declare the glory of God and His Word declares His glory, too. We shouldn’t shun one at the expense of the other. You know, it’s interesting the Gnostics said that the physical was evil. I think that’s kind of similar to what some people do today when they say, “Well, the physical world can’t tell us anything good about God. It actually can and God’s Word says it does, too.
I hope this has helped you think through this issue and realize that we live in a world created by God, and it testifies to His existence, and this is powerful. It should be encouraging to us, and we can use it to argue for God’s existence with other people.
I’ll talk with you next week on Unapologetic.