Isn’t the idea/concept of God/Higher Power too simple to be real?

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture

Question: Isn’t the idea/concept of God/Higher Power too simple to be real? (Under 18, Europe)

Answer: The answer to your question is no; the idea of a higher power is not too simple to be true. In fact, the idea of God is profound… and not simple at all. You see, without God, we have no standard to affirm if anything is true or not… and therefore, an answer to this or to any other question would not exist… but it does!

Now, since you’ll be expecting me to use logic and established facts when I respond to this question, you’ll be relying on “properly basic” assumptions about the way things work in the world of Q & A (that’s what’s known as our epistemology) ... and even ideas like what is simple or complex have no standing without standards for comparison.

God established a discoverable universe, and he made us explorers… but he did not have to. We humans are great at collecting and analyzing data. But there’s no reason that our methods should be as reliable as they are and so fit to measure the physical world… but they just are… so why? This phenomenon points beyond the simple fact (called a “brute fact” in philosophy) of the universe’s existence… right to God.

You’ve contacted a Christian ministry with your question — one that purports to give biblical answers to questions… and I’m sure you knew this going in. But since you are challenging the very idea of God’s existence, then you are probably not inclined to give God’s word (the Bible) any standing in this discussion… and I agree that arguing for God’s existence through the Bible could seem circular.

But God is not a one-trick-pony. The universe itself is seeded with evidence that the God of the Bible exists… and the Bible tells us that these evidences are so plain that he holds us all responsible to find him — even without any Christian training! (Romans 1:18-20). But we also think about things which transcend the physical world — a thing that you are doing right now… and this is a remarkable activity.

Let’s take your question for example: Is God too simple to be real? Have you even thought about your question itself in relation to what your question is asking? It’s quite esoteric… philosophical, actually. So, where do questions like that come from?

If we were just machines for propagating DNA (as people like Richard Dawkins affirm), how would a question like yours ever arise? Under Darwinian pressures, I fail to see where philosophy enhances one’s chances at copulation… unless philosophers “get the girls” somehow… and I missed that part when I was in philosophy school. Yet, here we are… and with all our questions… so, somebody’s copulating in spite of that!

You are not the first one to ask these types of questions, of course. But this is so much the case that philosophers have developed many extra-biblical arguments for the existence of God… of which I’ll just give you an overview of the top four. These all address your question from different angles… and you’ll probably realize on your own that no simpletons came up with these.

The four extra-biblical arguments in view today are the Cosmological, Teleological, Ontological and Anthropological arguments — but (and thankfully!) they also have more casual names like the First Cause argument or the Argument from Design, so don't be thrown if you hear other terms. But when these arguments are formally stated, they need to be presented in the language of logic, and that language is exacting. Let's dive into the Cosmological argument, and you'll see what I mean. It is formally stated as follows:

1. Everything that exists must have a cause.

2. The universe exists and so must have a cause.

3. Therefore, the universe is caused by a first cause (a. k. a. God).

I state this informally as: Stuff exists, therefore, God exists.

Please note that this argument does not necessarily point to the revealed God of the Bible; it's not supposed to. This argument is primarily anti-atheistic, saying that the universe is not self-existent. It has a cause. Christians know God to be the cause, but this is not necessary for the scope of this argument, which I'll restate in stricter terms than my informal statement: Stuff exists, therefore, cause exists.

Atheistic thinkers need an eternally existent universe because something cannot come from nothing — and we surely see a lot of something! So, what does one do with that empirical data? Either, "something" came forth uncaused, the stuff of the universe is itself eternal (self-existent and self-sustaining forever) or it was caused. We Christians like the idea that it was caused, of course, because we know the "First Cause" personally.

Let's shift to the Teleological argument for a closer look at what cause has done to the place. Philosopher William Paley (1743-1805) developed the analogy of the watchmaker to explain teleology. He posited that if you found a watch in an empty field, you would logically conclude that it was designed and not the product of random formation.  Likewise, when we look at life and the universe, it is natural to conclude there is a designer since we see how perfectly the universe and its life-forms operate. Based on this, Paley gave us this formal argument:

1. Human artifacts are products of intelligent design.

2. The universe resembles human artifacts.

3. Therefore the universe is a product of intelligent design.

4. But the universe is complex and gigantic, in comparison to human artifacts.

5. Therefore, there probably is a powerful and vastly intelligent designer who created the universe.

I state this informally as: Design exists, therefore, a Designer exists.

Please understand that these types of arguments are vigorously debated by Christians and atheists and that the assertions of one side are usually (logically) answered by the counter-arguments of the other side. So, at the end of the fighting, two sides remain. This reveals an important thing concerning Christian apologetics: Arguments might be won or lost, just as debates might be won or lost in high school, but no amount of argument changes what is truly true. God exists, and he who seeks God with a pure heart will find him (Jeremiah. 29:13).

Take St. Anselm, for instance, who must have had both a pure heart and pure mind to develop this next argument. The Ontological Argument is quite old (11th century) — and it argues for the existence of God by using the laws of logic alone. I believe the Ontological argument to be one of the greatest breakthroughs in the history of human thought. It is stated formally as follows:

1. Our understanding of God is a being than which no greater can be conceived.

2. The idea of God exists in the mind.

3. A being which exists both in the mind and in reality is greater than a being that exists only in the mind.

4. If God only exists in the mind, then we can conceive of a greater being — that which exists in reality.

5. We cannot be imagining something that is greater than God.

6. Therefore, God exists.

I state this informally as: The idea of God exists, therefore, God exists.

Friend, it gets no purer than that! Unfortunately, we'll have to step away from purity for a while, because we need to step into the realm of the human essence. As physical entities, we humans represent such a small mass in the universe, but as moral agents, we define its central paradox. The argument from Anthropology (also known as the argument from Morality) is useful here.

With this argument, I'd like to give you my informal statement first, since...well...I'm picking a fight. So, here goes: Man exists, therefore, God exists.

This will take some qualification, of course, because you are going to say to me, "People are horrible! They kill, steal and lie! How can you use such beings to point to a God that you describe as good and holy?" And I'll not argue with you. Dreadful people are everywhere! But I will posit that, in addition to the overtly evil people (the late Charlie Manson), there are those who are overtly good (the late Mother Teresa), and that both of these types of people are sprinkled among our population. But what about the majority of us who do not excel either way?

Most of us are both good and evil on some level, and although we live within acceptable norms, every one of us is capable of performing the highest good... as well as the basest evil. This is the human paradox, and it is our defining paradox. But right at the core of that paradox is where the Christian worldview shines the brightest because it is our worldview that best reflects what everybody sees: Humans are amazing and horrible.

Christianity understands that we humans were created in perfect goodness. But we were knocked down by Satan, and we are being kept down by sin. The result is that we live our lives like deposed royalty — formerly regal persons who are now forced to live common lives. And because we live in a ruined world, we often act like ruined persons. But sometimes that former nobility finds our hearts, and it shines through the cracks of despair.

The Apostle Paul, who argued that we can find the proof of God by looking around (Romans. 1:18-23), also argued that we can find him by looking within. In my opinion, the greatest challenge to the atheistic materialist viewpoint is humanity's morality. It is too vital to be a mere artifact... and everyone knows that it's there... although not everyone admits it.

“(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.)” (Romans 2:14–15, NIV)

In general terms, the most viable worldview is the one that best explains reality, and the reality is that humans are morally variable. Why are we evil, and why are we good? Why both, and not just one or the other? The Christian worldview is the best explanation for the empirical data. I invite everyone to look around... and then look up.

This is a lot to dump on a teenager… but you asked! Thinking-people cannot just dismiss God. They must consider the data and choose the worldview which best explains reality… and that will always be your job.

At this point you must be asking, there are very bright people who have thought a lot about this stuff… but who have ended up on both sides of the divide. Some are believers and some are not. How do I make sense of that? Here I’ll give you the biblical answer… because this is our stand around here.

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18, NIV)

You seem to be a thinking person, so before we part, let me give you a link to Mainsail Ministries’ article An Alternative to Death. This is a more careful analysis of why many like me have decided that the Christian worldview is the best explanation for the universe’s empirical data.

May God bless you while you search.

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