THE EXISTENCE OF GOD: Does The Bible Attempt to Prove God’s Existence?

The Bible begins with an unpretentious proposition: “In the beginning God created.” [1]

With this simple yet profound opening statement, the Holy Spirit inspired the writer of the Book of Beginnings to open the historical presentation of man’s interaction with God from the divine perspective instead of the carnal or human place of understanding. With this angular contribution in mind, Genesis allows man to encounter God apart from factual analysis of data rendered in conceptual proofs or information garnished from experience. 

Genesis postulates a hypothesis concerning God’s existence that resonates throughout the Sixty-six times that comprise the Holy Written Scripture. Rather than seeking to prove the articulation of God’s existence, Scripture opens with an assumption. The biblical account and record of God’s existence is a proposed assumption, not an argued, concise, logical presentation intended to coalesce into a synthesized whole. As such, the biblical revelation accepts the reality of God as existent without attempting to prove His existence.

Before the Hebraic understanding of God’s imminence and transcendent nature is dismissed as a primitive analogical endeavor, held in check by limited cognitive abilities, the modern theories of Negation or Reductionism as applied to human behavioralist theory should be considered.  According to Dr. Mark Cosgrove, Associate Professor of Psychology at Taylor University, in a published article on Reductionism in Baker’s Dictionary of Psychology, states that reductionism is: “a fundamental scientific theory, which states that one can explain a phenomenon of nature at one level of inquiry by showing how its mechanisms and processes arise out of a lower or more microscopic level… Most psychology is built on reductionism, with metaphysical reductionism being frequently held by psychology’s leading scientists.” [2]

As applied to human cognition and emotion, Reductionism as a science seeks to explain behavior through negative assumptions as proposed against positive interaction. By this, it is meant to infer that internal combustions of thought interaction undergird external proofs.  Man as a sentient being is known through the physiological responses rendered by the mind’s interaction with the substance of being. As Dr. Cosgrove states so eloquently, “In other words, reductionism believes that the whole of a person’s behavior is nothing more than the sum of its parts.[3]”  

This human behavioral adaptation fits the conceptual presentation of the biblical account of God as well.  God is not a random expression of thought conceived by man through an absurd connection of unanswerable questions or the application of logical assumptions in a concise pattern of referent thought. God is known and observed through the simplistic assumption of observational patterns that create a cohesive whole for the astute observer. 

To present a comprehensive argumentation for God’s existence would be to utilize the platform of philosophy’s Emergent Mentalism, theoretical speculations, which is understood as “The theory of…an explanation of the genesis of the mind or consciousness in the world.” [4] Emergentism seeks to synthesize and organize components of thought or reality into predictable blocks of information that can produce new blocks of information in ways that were not predictable through the rational observation of factual material. Attempts have been made to understand God rationally in the historical context of human understanding and experience. This has been the pursuit of philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas, among many, many others. The essence of Emergentism and other philosophical endeavors is the attempt to create a radical paradigm shift in perception, conceiving God through natural substance. 

A problem arises when factual data of a natural substance is seen as a secondary point of consideration, not a primary focal point. The biblical assumption of God’s existence permeates the Scriptural record and sets forth the true criteria of knowing God’s existence, the simple equation of faith. The unknown writer of the Book of Hebrews states it well when he says, In the past, God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at man times in various ways, but in the last days He has spoken to us by His SonHebrews 1:1-2 a.” [5] Faith is the unequivocal leveler of data and assumption.  God is seen and heard through the centuries by its profound power.  

Are the Philosophical Arguments For God’s Existence Compatible With Scripture?

The philosophic arguments that seek to validate God’s existence are only compatible with Scripture only in a broad understanding and definition. As Millard Erickson states in Christian Theology“The Bible or some other source of revelation seems to assume the existence of God.” [6]  Due to the limited nature of biblical revelation and its refusal to address the proof of God’s existence, the philosophical rationale as presented in the guise of argumentative formulae are tenuous in their ability to offer up valid proofs for the corroboration of God’s existence.  

The referent to biblical revelatory limitations is not a denigration of Scriptural authority or veracity.  It merely addresses the dynamic nature of biblical truths premise: God exists. How God’s existence is perceived, accepted, or rejected has no intrinsic bearing on the basic assumption. Biblical truth does not concern itself with the vast gamut of issues or concerns that may be deemed appropriate within the necessary framework of humanity’s existence. Rather, Scripture reveals the functional revelatory mechanisms of salvific relational qualities pertaining to the field of redemption’s necessary elements. 

The Ontological argument (the study of being and the existence of God), Cosmological argument (the existence of God can be inferred from facts concerning causation, explanation, change, motion, contingency, dependency, or finitude), Teleological argument (intelligent design argument), Anthropological argument (argument inferring observing humanity demonstrates similarities between God and man), Moral argument (God exists based on objective moral values and objective moral duties), and the argument from religious experience (if something can be experienced, it must exist), all carry within them aspects of truth that can be of assistance in directing any objective inquiries toward the certainty of God’s existence in a rationalistic assessment of pertinent data. Rationalism’s approach to epistemological questionings and metaphysical undertakings can help in adjudicating various thoughts and relevant external pieces of evidence that point to the existence of God.  Although conclusive proof may not be arrived at in the form of a “smoking gun,” knowledge can be deduced by concluding a logical and concise form through analytical deliberation.  

Dr. Dagobert Runes validates the utilization of Rationalism in the Dictionary of Philosophy.  Runes states“Rationalism (is) a method…a theory of philosophy, in which the criterion of truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive.[7]”From a methodological framework, the philosophical/theological arguments carry their greatest value in creating anticipatory faith, helping the inquisitive seeker by answering objections to faith and being found within the context of the questions that arise when discussing the viability of God’s existence. 

Difficulties form in this arena of thought, however, when knowledge is deemed valid only through its acquisition on an empirical basis. As faith is essential in truly encountering God, empirical evidence that conclusively proves His existence seems to be deliberately left out of the equation. When reality is based on the tangible substance of a dense circumference, spirit, which cannot be measured quantitatively, is excluded from the dialogue. 

These non-empirical arguments are invaluable in the proclamation of the gospel message to the non-believer who accepts the scientific method of investigation. Hypothetical suggestions for the existence of God can be rationally deduced through the utilization of sound argumentative practice and good Christian Apologetics. As the Christian Apologetics Research Ministries website states, in conjunction with the subject of Apologetic, which is derived from the Greek word “apologia”, and carries the meaning: “to make defense…of the faith”, covers many areas:[8]…who Jesus is…the reliability of the Bible…refuting cults, biblical evidence in the history and archeological discoveries of the biblical data, answering objections, etc.  

Apologetics, writing from a defensive posture about faith, and witnessing to all who will listen about the Christ event are all valid applications of the various hypothetical arguments for the existence of God. The arguments can and should be utilized by those who belong to the Christian faith, as they assist those outside the faith in understanding the reasonable nature of Christianity.  

Another Line of inquiry that is worthy of pursuit asks: Is God Knowable?

The Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms defines: “Summum bunum” (as) the highest good, i.e., “God as the source and end of all that is good.” [9] This is the essence of the quandaries proper theology presents as a discipline. God is the ending point of all that is considered when good is pondered. Coupling this proposition with the biblical assertion that mankind was created in God’s image has led philosophers and theologians alike to conclude that man’s goodness, however, diminished and subjected to the layers of sins noetic, tainting presence, is a reflective element that draws man toward the end of goodness, when a man takes the necessary responsive actions, and the act of contrition is moved upon in repentance.

Biblical truth reveals a basic assumption about God’s essential character:  God is redemptive by nature. As such, God’s qualitative compulsion has been to negate sin’s devastation through the procedural qualifications of a relational nature. God, as redemptive, reveals himself as the one who has extended that which he is into the arena of probable relationships. The vehicle of relational knowledge allows the substance of the unknown to be drawn back, like a curtain, revealing the God of creation in an intimate fashion and format for genuine seekers.

Although the basic assumptions of knowability between persons, persons and objects, and persons and knowledge as a field is rife with dispute and contention, knowledge must settle into the intimate cradle of existence that is fashioned between the knower and known if the question is to have credible possibilities when drawn into consideration.

Martin Buber’s assumptions in Me and Thou, “The life of a human being does not exist merely in the sphere of God-directed verbs. It does not consist merely of activities that have something for their object. For wherever there is something, there is also another something… Whoever says you do not have something, he has nothing. But he stands in relation,” [10] fits well into the context of knowing in the particulars of the supra-relational qualities applied to God.  A relationship exists in the matrix of connection. In this assumption, God is knowable simply through His desire to make Himself known.  

This subjective quantification of the compendium of knowable essence can be found in the realm of nature and in the penetration of the natural through supra-natural revelation. The transcendent quality of Scriptural revelation, prophetic voices, and the culminating manifestation of Incarnational truth are all undergirded by divine junctures of a historic nature, i.e., theophanies, angelic visitants and other inclusions that deny natural orders precedence.  

General knowledge limitations are forced to submit to the prevailing divine turning points of God’s explicit manipulations within the machinations of man’s limited existence. The law of first reference is a primary focal point in this dialogue. The statement of God found in the Book of Beginnings in the first chapter identifies God as saying: “Let Us make man in our image” affixes well to the revelation: “God walked with them in the cool of day,” and presents the foundational formation for relational referents. [11] As Buber states: “Relation is reciprocity…let the meaning of action…that of the creature and its contemplation, remain mysterious…in the beginning is the relation.” [12]

Relationship as a possibility exists not because overwhelming proofs exist for God’s existence.  Rather, relational probabilities are possible only through God’s initiation. The normative essence of the relationship is quite possibly due to God’s self-revelation of grace, not man’s astute quest for self-actualization and discovery. Submitting to the boundaries created by God for the relationship to exist with Him is to become one who enters communion with the divine. In this light, God, as the initiator of compulsive and significant relationships, is seen as the primary mover, causing the substantive essentials for this relationship to exist within the parameters of possibility for all who would submit to relationship exacting guidelines.

[1] Holy Bible, Genesis 1:1

[2]Cosgrove, Mark, Baker Dictionary of Psychology, Benner, David, Gen. Ed., Baker Books, Grand Rapids MI, 1985, pp. 981-2

[3]Angeles, Peter, Dictionary of Philosophy, Barnes & Noble, NY, 1981, p.89

[4]_____ Ibid, Cosgrove, Mark, p.982

[5]_____ Ibid, Holy Bible

[6] Erickson, Millard, Christian Theology, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI 1983, p.30

[7]Runes, Dagobert, Dictionary of Philosophy, Littlefield, Adams & Co., NJ, 1964, p.263 

[8]Groothuis, Douglas, Christian Research Institute Internet website: Apologetics, April 3, 1994 (accessed 5-30-02)

[9] ___ Ibid, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Terms, p.290

[10] Buber, Martin, I and Thou, trans. Walter Kaufmann, Charles Scribner’s Son’s Press, NY, 1970, p.54, 55 

[11] Bible, New King James Version, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville TN, 1991

[12] _____ Ibid, Buber, Martin, I/Thou, p.67, 69

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