Is Belief in the Existence of God Reasonable?

Dr. Brian Allison

Belief in God is reasonable because belief in a divine Creator is reasonable. Belief in a divine Creator is reasonable because the universe in which we exist displays the marks of incredible wisdom and incomprehensible power. It is a universe of order and design. The marvelous intricacies and the awesome complexities of natural and physical life bespeak and argue for the ineffable activity of divine intelligence and purpose. The empirical evidence strongly suggests the overwhelming odds against our universe, with its inexhaustible interconnections and profound details, arriving at its present orderly state by mere chance and coincidence.

The unreasonableness of chance

The principle of mere chance and coincidence is insufficient to explain or account for the intricacies and complexities of this infinitely elaborate 'system' of which we are a part. The fact that we exist in a universe of demonstrable 'law and order' argues for, and demands, a cosmic designer. If I were to put a thousand piece puzzle into a bag and shake the bag furiously, and then pour out the pieces onto the floor in a pile and proceed to spread out the pile so that all the pieces lay flat on the floor, what are the chances, and how many times would I have to engage in this exercise, until all the pieces of the puzzle were linked in their appropriate positions in order to form the originally intended picture? The odds would be so astronomically great that we would mathematically conclude that achieving this feat would be virtually impossible. How much more impossible would it be considered for blind chance to arrange the innumerable pieces of the primordial universe into orderly fashion. Chance, by definition and experience, cannot produce or guarantee harmonious and predictable order. The notion of 'system' presupposes intelligence and purpose. As the human hand must intelligently and purposely move and arrange the puzzle pieces to form the originally intended picture, so a divine hand must have intelligently and purposely moved and arranged the pieces of the puzzle of the universe, resulting in the 'originally intended picture'. This matter of the 'law and order' of the universe does not 'prove' the existence of a divine Creator, but it certainly argues for it. As Alexander Pope (1688-1744; English poet) said, "Order is heaven's first law." It is reasonable to believe that God's wisdom and power lie behind the wonder of the universe.

The marvel of the cell

What are some of the marvelous intricacies and awesome complexities of this universe which bespeak and argue for the incredible wisdom and incomprehensible power of God? Biological life displays this wisdom and power. Living things grow by the multiplication of cells. The nucleus of a living cell divides itself into two new nuclei, with the cell itself following this lead by splitting up into two equal parts, with each containing one of the new nuclei. When the nucleus divides, the twenty-three pairs of chromosomes in the nucleus divide, with each new nucleus containing one chromosome from each pair. When the new cells split, they automatically double their chromosomes. Cells produce exactly after their kind. Further, chromosomes consist of connected genes. The genes contain the necessary instructions by which to produce or generate the plant or animal. Genes have different functions. One determines the colour of the hair and eyes, another determines the growth pattern of the lungs, another determines the elasticity of the muscles, etc. Genes consist of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). DNA molecules are basically the plans and blueprints which make life and growth even possible. They provide the codes for life. Does it seem reasonable that codes arise from chaos? The presence of DNA requires the right molecules in the right amounts. The linking-up of the molecules require special molecules which act as catalysts. How was it possible for the right molecules to be present, and to link-up properly with each other, and to have the right catalytic agents present (along with the necessary ultra-violet light) in order for life to be realized? Does it seem reasonable that randomness made it all possible, or does a divine intelligence and purpose better explain the phenomenon of life?

The marvel of the galaxies

Cosmic life also displays this wisdom and power. Our solar system consists of a sun and nine known planets which revolve around it. The revolution of the planets is precise, predictable, and orderly, moving like intricate clockwork. The laws of planetary movement and revolution are entrenched and fixed. The movement and revolution of all heavenly bodies follow entrenched and fixed laws. Our solar system is part of a galaxy known as the Milky Way. The Milky Way, which is about a billion billion (1018) kilometres across, is slowly rotating in an orderly, definable fashion as it moves through space. The Milky Way contains about 100 billion (1011) suns or stars, many larger than our own, the nearest of which is about 40 million million (4x1013) kilometres away. All these stars evidence predictable, measurable behaviour. Two galaxies, the Magellanic clouds, are adjacent to our own, and beyond them, within 40 billion billion (4x1019) kilometres of us, are about thirty galaxies. Apparently, there are upwards of a billion galaxies which are spread uniformly and orderly throughout the universe. If our sun were a pea and our planets specks of dust, the nearest star would be 100 kilometres away, the edge of our galaxy would be more than a million kilometres away, and the edge of the universe would be a million million kilometres away. Traveling at the speed of light (300,000 kilometres per second), it would take eight minutes to reach the sun, four years to reach the nearest star, 100,000 years to reach the edge of our galaxy, and about 10 billion (1010) years to reach the edge of our universe. And within this inconceivable, unimaginable massive 'system', the innumerable heavenly bodies move like intricate clockwork. Does it seem reasonable that such a magnificent order and design is the child of chance and coincidence? Does it seem reasonable that an intrinsic, interconnected system arose from an indeterminate cosmic 'soup'? We pride ourselves on knowing how things work, living in a highly advanced techno-scientific age, but the question is: why do these things even work at all, what makes it even possible? Behind the universe is God.

The universe witnesses to the divine

The wonder of the universe, both in its macro-dimensions and micro-dimensions bespeaks and argues for an intelligent, purposeful divine Creator who is bigger than it. Carl Jung (1875-1961; Swiss psychiatrist) wrote, "I could not say I believe. I know! I have had the experience of being gripped by something that is stronger than myself, something that people call God." When you personally reflect upon the wonders of the universe, perceiving the intricacies and complexities of physical and natural life, and acquire a sense of awe, that awe-experience is a witness to the divine character of the cosmos and to the existence of God. It is a religious response. Charles Dickens (1812-1870; English novelist) wrote, "Let us be moral. Let us contemplate existence." The Christian Bible reads, "The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands;" also, "For since the creation of the world His visible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made." Albert Einstein (1879-1955; German-Swiss-American theoretical physicist) wrote, "To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull facilities can comprehend only in the most primitive forms – this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I belong to the ranks of the devoutly religious men." So the question is: Does the existence of God help to explain the amazing facts of the universe, without whom the facts cannot be adequately explained? I am appealing to your common sense. The reasonable answer is: yes.

Morality witnesses to the divine

The typical retort against the existence of God is a 'moral argument' – a good, loving God would not allow injustice and unnecessary suffering of the innocent. Yet the very fact that human beings have the sense of morality – that is, the sense of what is right or wrong – implies a higher principle or reality from which such human experience has its roots and derives its significance. Animals, birds, and fish do not possess moral sensibilities, and if these creatures comprise the roots of ancient human ancestry, how may we explain the very appearance of moral sense and conscience? The sense of right and wrong certainly presupposes that we live in an intrinsically moral world, which necessitates a personal God, and not a mere impersonal power or force, to explain the moral nature of this world. The justification of binding, and even universal, morality is an absolute standard or moral code. But the problem is harmonizing the presence of a good, loving God and the presence of injustice and the suffering of the innocent.

The problem of unjust suffering

Critics argue that if there is a good, loving God, then He would not allow unjust suffering and pain. He would intervene as an expression of His beneficence. However, these critics are presupposing that God's character is only and exclusively defined in terms of love. Yet if the integrity of human personality must be defined in terms of love and its counterpart (e.g. wrath, anger, hatred, etc.), does it not seem reasonable that God himself should also evidence these same attributes? Critics often argue against a God of their own projection and creation, and thus of their own misconception. No wonder they do not believe. Their misconceptions fuel their own anger, bitterness, and hatred of the religious. Their misconceptions result in the misjudgements of others. Further, these critics often argue from the premise that if there is a God, then it is required of Him to act and intervene immediately when unjust suffering and pain are present; but such thinking is naive, for other extenuating factors may be involved, complicating the situation. Was there an immediate international reaction and outcry when the United States dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima? This imposition of unjust suffering and pain prevented the protraction of the misery of war and perhaps a greater loss of life. Of course, in saying this, I would not minimize nor disparage the various atrocities in the world. The point is that justice delayed is not justice denied. Accordingly, the presence of unjust suffering and pain in the world does not necessarily comprise a cogent argument against the existence of a good, loving God; it simply underscores the tragedy of the human condition. Voltaire (1694-1778; French writer) wrote, "To believe in God is impossible – not to believe in Him is absurd."

Evil, suffering, and divine justice

So how does one explain the fact that a good, loving God can allow unjust suffering and pain, especially of the cruelest kind? First, God allows His moral universe to unfold according to its own principles and laws. He respects the freedom and integrity of the person, even though that freedom results in evil. Admittedly, people do evil, and are evil. God allows human beings to reap the evil that they sow, even though innocent lives are hurt and destroyed. This reaping is a form of divine justice, though we may not be able to explain why the innocent must suffer. Further, sometimes the exacting of justice is violent and harsh. The electrocution of a malicious child-rapist would seem violent, but most would consider it fitting and right as an exact payment of justice for the brutal molestation and killing of twenty, five year old girls. Violence per se is not necessarily wrong, though it may appear evil. Harsh, cruel behaviour may not be becoming of a civilized, decent people, but it is sometimes justified and necessary. Second, God, to be sure, if He is good and loving, must also be just. Love demands the pursuit and the exacting of justice. Yet we should not interpret God according to our wisdom. The moral Creator, because He is just and good, will eventually bring to account His moral creatures, even those who performed cruel acts in His name. Just because people own God, and think that they do Him a service, God may not own them. Admittedly, religious people may be evil people; but let us not blame God for this. Justice will prevail. If the universe has purpose and design, even moral purpose and design, then the universe is moving toward an ultimate goal and a moral end. Third, the question of unjust suffering and pain of the innocent is ultimately a mystery. We cannot explain it. As Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) stated, "It is easy to understand God as long as you don't try to explain him."

The need for faith

There is much of life that cannot be explained. Therefore, we must live by faith – faith that good will triumph over evil; faith that the world does have ultimate meaning and purpose; faith that the qualities of truth, integrity, honesty, kindness, etc. have eternal significance and value; faith that God can, and will, make sense of our seemingly morally chaotic and broken world. We must have faith which 'springs hope eternal'. If we have no God, we cannot make ultimate sense, moral or otherwise, of the world in which we live. All human suffering and injustice become absolutely meaningless and irredeemable, and life itself becomes utterly pointless and irrational. Only if God exists, do we have any ultimate reason and purpose for our existence. Rather than 'putting God into ill-earned retirement', we do ourselves a great service in putting Him on His rightly-deserved throne.