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Why God?

• Greg Boyd

Today we answer the question of why believe in God? Is this like believing in the Easter Bunny? Isn’t it illogical and improbable that there would be a personal being out there who created everything and loves the world and every living creature? Our answer: No! When you look at the facts, it’s actually MORE logical that the above is true than not.

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One reason that former-skeptics often tend to have a passionate faith is because they’ve had to fight for it. For those who inherited their faith and have never questioned it, their resulting belief can lack passion. This sermon series aims to build up those arguments, to impassion both skeptics and believers alike. 

Today Greg presents two main arguments that support a belief in a personal God who created the world and loves us.

Fine Tuning Argument, a.k.a. “The Goldilocks Argument”

We are all familiar with the children’s story of Goldilocks and the three bears — there are three bowls of porridge, one is too hot, one is too cold, and one is just right. The Goldilocks Argument says that the nature of this universe is so perfectly suited not just for life to exist but for there to be matter in the first place, it is not possible to have happened purely by chance. 

Psalms 19:1
The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.

Psalms 14:1
Fools say in their heart, “there is no God.”

These both assert that a belief in God is the only logical belief. To demonstrate this principle, Greg placed a metal screw in between 2 magnets.  The screw was exactly equidistant between the magnets and it does not move. It isn’t because there is nothing happening but because the forces acting on the screw are perfectly balanced. But as soon as one of the three parts moves just a little, the forces are no longer perfectly balanced and the screw suddenly moves and snaps onto the closer magnet. 

Similarly we live in a solid world of stable things. This stability that we take for granted is the result of many forces of nature interacting with each other in specific ways. If these interactions had been any different, life (and matter itself) would not have happened. Each one of these forces that acts up on the world is called a Cosmic Constant. They are things like the speed of light, and the strong nuclear force; forces which we can quantify and that do not change. 

Depending on how you group them, most scientists agree that there are 47 different cosmic constants. We will look at four. 

1) Ratio of electromagnetic force constant.

If slightly greater: Chemical bonding would be disrupted, elements any more massive than Boron would be unstable, and life chemistry would be impossible. If slightly lesser, Chemical bonding would be insufficient for life chemistry. Chances are 1 in 10 to the 40th power that this force would be set just the way it is. To illustrate just how improbable this is, if you had a dime with a red X on it, and inserted it somewhere into a stack of dimes then asked a friend to pick one dime from the stack — to achieve these improbable odds that your friend would choose the one dime with the red X, you would have to have a pile of dimes all the way to the moon plus a BILLION times further than that!

2) Strong nuclear force constant

If slightly larger no hydrogen would form, hence life chemistry would be possible. If slightly smaller no elements heavier than hydrogen would form: again, no life chemistry

3) Weak nuclear force constant 

If slightly larger, there would have been too much helium created during the big bang; hence, stars would convert too much matter into heavy elements making life chemistry impossible. If slightly smaller, two little helium would be produced from the Big Bang; hence, stars would convert two little matter into heavy elements, making life chemistry impossible

4) Gravitational force constant

If slightly larger, stars would be too hot and would burn too rapidly and too unevenly for life chemistry. If slightly smaller, stars would be too cool to ignite nuclear fusion; thus many of the elements needed for life chemistry would never form. These are just four of the roughly 47 variables that if just slightly different, would make life impossible.

Stephen Hawking wrote about this: “The laws of science as we know them at present, contains many fundamental numbers, like the size of the electric charge of the electron in the ratio of the masses of the proton and the electron… the remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers seem to have been very finally adjusted to make possible the development of life.”

Modern high-power telescopes tell us that the universe is expanding and that expansion is accelerating. And conversely, astronomers estimate that 13.6 billion years ago all matter was super condensed in a ball around the size of a quarter. At some point it exploded, known as the Big Bang. (Now, nobody knows where the ball came from and why it exploded when it did. But that is the currently accepted theory.)

In this Big Bang scenario, you don’t have that many opportunities to get it right. You have one chance of the universe being set just the way it is. And the odds that it would be just the way it is so that matter and life could come to exist is nearly infinitely unlikely. Remember the stack of dimes from before? Now multiply those odds by 47! It’s just about impossible.

You don’t have to be a believing Christian to see how convincing this is for the existence of God. The astronomer Fred Hoyle said: “A commonsense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers that one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”

Another way to imagine this is to think of dice… On a 6-sided die your chances of rolling a 3 is 1 in 6. If you roll that die twice in a row, your chances of rolling a 3 both times are 6 x 6, or 36. If you roll it six times in a row your chances are 1 in 47,000 that you will roll a 3. Now imagine a die with 10(40)th sides, and rolling a 3 all 47 times in a row!

The only way you can get around this incredibly unlikely perfection is if there was more than one universe (think of more than one marked dime in your stack) so if there were infinitely many universes, then it isn’t so hard to believe that this one happened to be the way it is. But Greg’s opinion is that is a “Hail Mary pass” if ever there was one, because there is no evidence mathematical or otherwise to believe in multiple universes. The difference between an idea and a theory is first, whether there is evidence, and second, whether or not it is falsifiable. Belief in a multiverse is unfalsifiable and there is no other evidence for it, so it remains just an idea. Frankly it’s much more likely that God exists.

The second reason that belief in God is more philosophical. If you’ve come to our church for any length of time, you probably know that when Greg was younger he went to college and lost his faith. During this time, he was miserable. Having been a Christian for a while but then believing in nothing again made life feel vacuous, empty. So he was incredibly depressed.

During this time he took a class about the philosopher Neitzsche, and one day Greg asked the professor, what is the motivation for living or doing good when all are going to die anyway? The universe is expanding and everything will die no when there is more energy and in a material world where there is no God, there is ultimately no point to anything. How do you get out of bed in the morning?  

The professor answered, “it gets better, you get used to it.” He also recommended reading a book by Albert Camus called The Myth of Sisyphus. In this myth, a man named Sisyphus is cursed to roll a large boulder up a hill until it rolls down the other side, then start over again, for all eternity. Camus basically concludes that although there really is no point, you go forward and keep living because that has dignity, to do otherwise would be cowardly.

Greg thought this is a terrible argument, because where do you get the idea of dignity in the first place? In a material world, ideas like dignity and cowardice and good and bad are all human constructs and have no ultimate meaning. The fact that we are even framing such questions of purpose and meaning (or lack thereof) using words like dignity is circular. 

In addition, Camus believed that human beings are “freaks of nature” (our paraphrase) with self awareness which torments us with longing for things to which there are no corresponding answers. Our desire for God, for an ultimate meaning and purpose to life, to be part of something eternal, or just for a higher power, all of these are things that humanity has craved since we first gathered around a thing called fire.

But how could we have evolved from the first single-cell organisms into creatures that long for something that never existed? It’s like people who live in the hottest desert knowing of nothing else, inexplicably developing a love for skiing. Nature evolves beings who have needs for which there is an answer. 

In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis described it this way: “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

The fact that we long for God means there must be something out there to correspond to that longing. Aside from this, as Greg’s philosophy professor said, the next best option is to just get used to it and stop thinking about it, well that’s a pretty unsatisfying option and not only that but it makes the least sense. It is far more likely that there is a God who is rational, intentional and moral who created us and the world. This is the blueprint from which we were made.

This practice of apologetics (being able to defend your faith) is a kind of discipleship of the mind, where you will live as though it’s true because you believe it’s true. The facts are that either our reality is far more miserable than we can possibly comprehend or admit, or it’s in fact far better than we can possibly comprehend or admit. And, we have reasons — historical, scientific and philosophical — that all point to the actual reality that a loving God made us and all things for the purpose of union with himself through Jesus Christ. It’s not just incredibly good news, it’s also the most likely scenario to be TRUE.

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Topics: Defense of Christian Faith, Faith

Sermon Series: Sure.


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Focus Scripture:

  • Psalms 19:1

    The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.

  • Psalms 14:1

    Fools say in their heart, “there is no God.”

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One thought on “Why God?

    Peter says: Tuesday March 13, 2018 at 7:15 am

    As has been previously discussed, man “exchanged the truth about God for a lie” (Rom 1:25)…hence his current knowledge and pattern of living ie lifestyle, is where he suppresses (or refuses to believe) the Truth and lives to self.
    Where Greg introduced this message and indicated that more ‘millennials’ were non believers, this can be symptomatic with the message (the lie) that the world system is broadcasting 24/7 through the media and especially social media…with perhaps, diminishing transmissions of the Truth.
    However, as one commentator notes,
    “If what we have said about man is true—that he has exchanged the truth of God for a lie—then he is in great need of the truth. If he is deluded in thinking that he knows what is good and evil (ie. the truth and the lie) then it is imperative that he come to the truth, especially by the unmasking of the lie. Only when he knows the truth will he be free, ie. free from what is false, freed into what is true, and free in the living of the truth”
    While there is nothing wrong with the message that Greg has given to present to a non believer reasons why they should change their way of thinking in relation to God…in the end we are all required to reject the lie and believe (and live) the Truth.
    Like Pilate, non believers may well ask (Jn 18:38), “What is truth?”.
    As the commentator says,
    “Jesus said to the Father, ‘Thy word is truth’ (John 17:17). He meant no less than ‘You are the truth, therefore when you speak what you say is the truth.’ It is right to say then that the Father ‘spoke’ or ‘uttered’ the Son. That is, the Son, when he came, spoke the words of the Father (John 7: 16-18, 8:26-28, 47, 12:47-49, 14: 10). He was the infallible witness to the truth, ie. to God the Father.”
    He continues,
    “How was he [Jesus] the true witness? Did he merely parrot the words God had given him? Was he like a modern tape-recorder, like a tape which was first recorded and then switched on to PLAY? Not at all. He was one with the Father (John 10:30), but relationally this way. He did nothing of his own accord, but only what he was shown by the Father did he then show to the world (John 5: 19-20). How he lived, what he said, and what he did was all the dynamic reflection, and indeed the action of the Father Himself. This would mean that nothing Jesus did was false. Nothing was irrelevant. Nothing was outside the will of the Father. Everything was the substance, essence and manifestation of the truth. He could be this only because he was truly aligned with the Father. (‘I and the Father are one.’) He was the first man of whom this could be said. The wills of Father and Son were synchronized. This being so, to what did he witness?”
    “He said, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen’ . ‘He [the Son] bears witness to what he has seen and heard’ . He added, ‘He who receives his [the Son’s] testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true’. How can this be? ‘For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for it is not by measure that he [the Father] gives the Spirit’. The Son can witness because, as man, he is filled with the Spirit of truth. That is why Jesus could claim, ‘ . . . for this cause came I into the world that I might bear witness to the truth’ (John 3:11, 32-34, 18:37).”
    Then follows,
    “Being one with the Father he was one with Him in the truth. His glory was ‘of the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.’ For a world which has lived mainly in the lie, the coming into the world of the Son was a unique happening, strongly confronting, wholly threatening to the way of the lie. How then was this, and what modes did the revelation of truth take? The answer is, ‘Jesus lived the truth by which man can measure whether or not he is of the truth. He is the paradigm of true man, by which man can measure whether or not he is a true man.’ A true man is one who is full of grace and truth. This is the true image of God in the practice of life.
    None of this is mere abstract and theological thinking. It is not merely a matter of reasoning. We only have to look at the life (and death) of Christ to see the truth in action. As we observed, the truth is something you do. You ‘truth’ it, doing the truth all the time. This is what it means to be a true man”
    This is further expanded,
    “Jesus could say, ‘He who has seen me has seen the Father.’ He added, ‘I say nothing from myself [ie. on my own authority: I am not detached from the Father]; the Father who dwells in me, he does the works’ (John 14:10). This means that if we went through the Gospels and everywhere it is written, ‘Jesus said’, ‘Jesus cried’, ‘Jesus commanded’, we were to cross out ‘Jesus’ and write ‘the Father said’, ‘the Father cried’, ‘the Father commanded’, then that would be the true picture. In practice this would give us a very different view of the Father, for to many He is distant, remote, even severe and authoritarian. To such people, it is Jesus who is the warm, the intimate, the loving one. For some he is even seen as pacifying the stern Father. These are wrong views, of course, but only an acceptance of Jesus as the true witness to the Father will alter our misconceptions.
    Jesus is really saying, ‘everything stems from the Father, ie. The sending, the incarnation, the baptism as Messiah, the ministry, yes, even the death of the Cross and the Resurrection.’ This, of course, was true, and Paul summed it up when he said, ‘God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses against them’. When we see this, we marvel at the love of the Father, and His intimacy with us, in and through His Son. This is the truth of God…
    ….If a human being could receive this witness of the Son [the Truth], then he would see how deceptive, how tawdry, and how empty is the living of the lie. To receive the witness is to know that God is Father, that He is love, that He is the true God, and (as Jesus said) to know the Father is to live in eternal life (John 17:3).”
    And lastly, the issue of true man is addressed,
    “Here we can say simply that fallen man is not true man. He has unmanned or de-manned himself in and by his rebellion. Whilst, roughly speaking, he is still man, he is really a caricature of what it is to be man. Our problem is that we take our fallen humanity to be the norm for manhood, when it is far below that norm. Jesus’ manhood is the true norm. His is not a super-humanity. It is simply humanity.
    This is not to say that everything that Jesus did is to be mimicked by us. He had a vocation and calling as Messiah which was unique to him. We do not then have to be ‘parallel’ messiahs. However, in character, and in our relationships with God, our fellow man, and the creation, we should be as he was. As he manifested the fruit of the Spirit (cf. Galatians 5:22-23), such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, then so should we.
    In saying this we are not talking about perfection. To be a man is not to fulfil certain legal requirements. We must recognise that it is the habitual thrust of a person which matters, not success in the meticulous observance of a set code. Man, in recovering from his fallenness and from living the lie, will need a transforming power to restore him to his true humanity. Also he will find the forces of darkness to be pitted heavily against him. All this being true, the new man has Christ as the paradigm of true humanity. Christ has powerfully witnessed to what it is to be a man.”
    While the content here may cut across the last two of Greg’s messages (perhaps as Greg had juxtaposed the messages?), there are some wonderful insights here for both the believer and the non believer that have also strengthened my faith.

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