A while back, I was speaking with a family member (let’s call him Mark to protect his identity) that, at some point in his life, determined to abandon his Christian faith and become an atheist. Although we do not have a close relationship, it came as a surprise to me as I had always believed he was grounded in his faith.
When I asked him why he had decided Christianity wasn’t true, he first responded, “It isn’t necessary for me, and I don’t see the point.”
Mark’s response is typical; however, there is a severe problem with it. Regardless of Mark’s opinion of necessity or his ability to see the importance of Christianity, this objection has nothing to do with whether or not Christianity is true. C. S. Lewis said, “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.” After gently explaining this to Mark, he gave me his first objection, and what he initially said was his reason for walking away from his Christian faith.
There Is No Evidence For God’s Existence
Mark explained, “I don’t believe in God because there’s no evidence. You can’t prove that there is or isn’t some other being out there that is controlling everything.”
I wanted to press Mark a little bit and see how much thought he had given to his statement, so I asked him, “what evidence would be sufficient to convince that God existed?”
“Anything compelling, concrete!” was his response. He said this, suppressing a laugh, as though fully convinced the conversation was almost over.
“What about the discovery that the universe had a beginning? Have you given that consideration as evidence?”, I asked.
“What about it? I don’t see how that proves God’s existence.”
“You’re right in that it doesn’t prove anything, but then again, there is very little that can be proven. Besides, we were seeking to show compelling evidence.”
“Why couldn’t the Universe have come about by chance?”
My response to Mark’s assertion that chance was a possible explanation to the universe ignited a conversation that lasted close to three hours, which I will summarize going forward.
Can “Chance” Explain the Beginning?
“Mark, can you point to one scientific discovery or observation where chance was the causal factor in something coming into being?”
I further explained that chance is a word used to describe the probability of something happening, given a cause. Scientists, based on the Big Bang Theory, believe that the universe and laws of nature, matter, and space came into being at a point in time in the finite past. In other words, before there was nothing and then something happened, bringing everything into existence.
“Mark, I’m curious if you’ve seriously thought about the theory that chance caused the universe. Considering “chance” is describing probability, then what is the probability, given there was absolutely nothing, and then there was everything, yet there was no cause other than the concept of probability? Where was this concept of probability, and what was it grounded upon being there is no nature in which to calculate its given ratios?”
“I understand what you’re saying, but perhaps there wasn’t this single beginning. Maybe the universe just appears to have begun, and yet it is eternal. Perhaps, it expands, contracts and expands again.”
Does a Big Crunch Follow the Big Bang?
“Mark, what you’re referring to is called an Oscillating Model for the universe. Scientists have shown this model not to be plausible due to other details we know about the universe. For example, thermodynamic properties, such as the total usable energy within the universe, would remain at a constant reduction that would persist through each contraction. Thus, with an infinite universe cycling through expansions and contractions, all of the usable energy within the universe would have been used up. There’s no escaping the reality that we have a finite amount of usable energy in the universe, and the entropy conditions show that over time there’s less and less usable energy. Therefore, if our universe has an infinite past, then a finite amount of energy would have already been used.”
When I finished my explanation, I noticed a shift in Mark’s tone. I didn’t ask him, but I could tell he had not expected that I had researched this topic. He knew I was in Seminary, but he was not familiar with the study of Christian Apologetics. My preparation for this discussion came primarily from one of my textbooks written by William Lane Craig, “Reasonable Faith,” and I had notes I was referencing stored on my phone. So, while I didn’t have all of the exact details committed to memory, I was able to respond to Mark with intellectual answers and establish credibility. It changed the tone of the conversation on his end from being adversarial and closed to interested and open.
“I hadn’t heard that, and honestly, I haven’t researched this all that much. It simply seems that there are many competing views on the state of the universe. For example, what about the multiverse? That seems to have grown in popularity and is a prominent theory that I hear quite frequently.”
“Mark, that is an excellent question, and I’m glad you asked about it. You’re right in saying it has grown in popularity; however, I would caution anyone believing that it is a prominent view among academics or physicists. First, this theory is derived purely from mathematical speculation, with no empirical evidence supporting its existence. Furthermore, even if the multiverse were true, the problem of an infinite universe simply shifts from our specific universe to the multiverse. Imagine, you have a vacuum that contains all of these universes. We know that at least one of those universes, ours, is expanding, and others are probably expanding too; thus, the multiverse itself must be expanding to, at a minimum to keep up with any number of internal universes that are expanding. Thus, if the multiverse itself is expanding, it cannot be infinite. It must have a beginning, if it even exists at all.”
“I understand it is simply a theory, and there isn’t any evidence for it. However, I still hold that just because there is a beginning that doesn’t prove that God exists.”
Evidence for the Nature of the Cause
“Fair enough, Mark. But, you would agree that if the universe had a beginning, then it must have had a cause. Have you considered what a plausible explanation would be for a cause that could create our universe from no existing material, in other words, out of nothing?”
At this point Mark actually sighed, laughed and said, “I’m listening.”
“Well, the cause would have to be very powerful and uncaused. If the cause had a cause, we end up with philosophical absurdities, so the true cause must be uncaused or self-existent. It exists necessarily. It must be incredibly intelligent to create a universe to finely tuned and maintained to support the existence of life. Finally, I believe it must be personal. Choice is a personal attribute. If the universe began to exist, it means it didn’t exist at some point; thus, a choice was made to bring it into existence. The universe isn’t necessary, and it could not have existed; therefore, a decision to bring it to existence was made. That is an attribute of a person.”
On Being Prepared
1 Peter 3:15 tells us to be prepared to give a defense, or reason, for the hope that is in us, but do so with gentleness and respect. Being prepared with a fundamental understanding of the evidence for the existence of God can help us react kindly and gently with those that are challenging or objecting to our faith.
It isn’t necessary to be an expert or have all the answers memorized. Knowing where to find the answers or even having a cursory understanding, most of the time, is sufficient. Although my Seminary education prepared me, the short video below gives the information necessary for engaging in a casual discussion on the evidence for God from the beginning of the universe.
Furthermore, when we have the answers to many of the objections skeptics pose, we can be bold in sharing our faith without worry that someone can make any accusation of us being intellectually inferior. It has been my experience that when unbelievers realize a believer has done their research to know the evidence and understand why they believe in Christianity, they too are interested in discussing the big questions of life and religious views.