How We Know God Exists
Westminster Larger Catechism
Question 2: How doth it appear that there is a God? A. The very light of nature in man, and the works of God, declare plainly that there is a God; but his word and Spirit only, do sufficiently and effectually reveal him unto men for their salvation.
“Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: “(Romans 1:19)
“Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them." (Romans 1:32)
"Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.” (Romans 2:1)
“I will not believe in God until you prove to me that God exists,” so declares the skeptic, quite confident that the existence of the Supreme Being needs to be proved. He adds, “You may not use the Bible and you can only use empirical evidence to prove that God exists.” The fact is the existence of the Living and True God does not need to be proved empirically. God has not left the knowledge of His existence up to the feeble efforts of mankind to prove it. God has encoded knowledge of himself in the minds of all mankind. When God made mankind He made him in His image in knowledge, righteousness and holiness. Part of this image is the innate knowledge of their Creator and Law Giver. In this way God, can hold all mankind morally accountable for not being thankful and Obedient.
The Light of Nature
This innate knowledge of God is commonly called the “Light of Nature”. It is knowledge that mankind has as part of his human nature.
“Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. “(Romans 1:19)
"For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: 15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another...” (Romans 2:14)
God created man in his own image as a rational and moral creature. As part of his rational (cognitive) faculties God has implanted direct knowledge of Himself. This knowledge is not the conclusion of a long philosophical argument, rather it is a direct enlightenment from God. This innate knowledge of God also includes innate knowledge of God's moral Law. God has endowed mankind with a conscience and it is through this faculty of the soul that man is directly made aware of God’s ethics. As Paul said. “their conscience bearing witness… accusing or else excusing.”
Morals are standards of conduct that all mankind is obligated to keep. For such universally binding obligations to exist, there must be a god to whom we are obligated. But it cannot be just any god, it must be a god who has the attributes that are necessary to impose and enforce a universal, unchanging moral standard. It would have to be a god who has the right of creator to impose a moral law, the power and willingness to enforce that law, the ability to know when it is transgressed, the ability to know everyone’s motive. It must be a god in fact who has the attributes of the God of the Bible: eternal, immutable, creator, sustainer and governor of all things, all powerful, all knowing everywhere present, most righteous and most just.
The Work of Creation
The work of creation manifests the existence of God. Our innate knowledge of God enables us to see the universe as God's creation. When we look upon the works of God’s hands, we are overwhelming impressed with the wonder of it's design. Even atheist Richard Dawkins admits that the biological world gives the overwhelming impression of being created. In his book “The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution” he writes:
“When we look at animals from the outside, we are overwhelmingly impressed by the elegant illusion of design.” (370) But all appearance of design must be ejected in light of the fact of evolution: “… the illusion of design makes so much intuitive sense that it becomes a positive effort to put critical thinking into gear and overcome the seductions of naïve intuition.” (371)
Professor Dawkins admits that animals appear to be created, but assures us this is only an illusion. He rejects the light of nature within along with the work of God’s creation which immediately and plainly declares the existence of the living and true God. This is a “message” that all mankind understands; the educated and the uneducated, primitive and modern, rich and poor, young and old. As the Psalmist writes:
“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. 2 Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. 3 There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. 4 Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,” ( Psalm 19:1)
Again, this general revelation of God to all mankind is not the conclusion of a long, complicated philosophical argument that only an educated mind can understand; rather it is a direct revelation easily understood by the uneducated and primitive. God has not left the knowledge of Himself subject to complicated philosophical arguments.
“Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom (philosophy) knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” (1 Corinthians 1:20)
The Works of Providence
Mankind is also made aware of the Living and True God though God’s works of providence. Providence is God’s active sustaining and governing of all His creation. We are most often made aware of this divine governing in times of special blessing or severe affliction. An example of a providential blessing through which our inward knowledge of God is affirmed and renewed is the birth of a child. It is common for a parent’s minds to be directed heavenwards when they first look upon God’s blessing of a child. An example of providential affliction that directs our minds upwards is when our lives are under immediate threat. Crying out to God is a natural response for mankind. We are after all, religious in nature.
Knowledge of God Suppressed
Now the unbeliever will usually deny that He has any innate knowledge of God. He will argue that the diversity of opinion about God and morality proves that there is no innate knowledge of God.
This diversity of opinion about God and morality is not proof that mankind lacks innate knowledge of God; rather it is evidence that mankind willfully suppresses the knowledge of God that he has.
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness...21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools….25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen….28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;” (Rom. 1:18-28)
Rejection of God’s general revelation of Himself to all mankind is the result of man’s desire to live independent of God. Mankind wants to determine for himself what is right and what is wrong. He does not want to be limited by commandments from God. Mankind, suppressing his innate knowledge of God, uses his imagination to explain away God and His morality. Then mankind uses their imagination to create their own gods (man being one of those gods) and their own “morality”. Sinful mankind turns from the truth that God has revealed to a lie of his own making. Instead of believing God, he believes what he imagines to be true.
(See: “Empiricism: What the unbeliever imagines to be true”)
Evidence of Suppressed Knowledge of God
So how can you know God exists? The answer is God has revealed Himself to you already; inwardly through the light of nature and outwardly through the God’s works of creation and providence. In this way God can hold all mankind accountable for rejecting Him and worshiping and serving the creature rather than the creator.
Here is some evidence that all mankind has this innate knowledge:
- We reveal that we have this innate knowledge of God every time we make a moral judgment. Morals are rules of conduct that all human beings are obligated to obey. Such universally binding rules cannot exist without the existence of the Living and True God to give and enforce them (see above). When we judge others, we reveal that we know such universal rules exist and therefore we also know that a Sovereign God, who is most righteous and most just also exists.
“For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: 15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;” (Romans 2:14)
- We reveal that we have innate knowledge of God because we intuitively know that human beings are moral creatures. We do not call a lion a murder when he kills another lion. Animals are not moral creatures. Mankind, however was made in the image of God and is a moral creature.
“Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” (Genesis 9:6)
- We reveal this innate knowledge of God whenever we are moved to praise God or call upon God in times of blessing or affliction.
- Mankind manifest his innate knowledge of God, because he is the only earthly being that worships God. The animals do not.
God has revealed himself to all mankind so that no one has the excuse of not knowing God and their moral accountability to Him.
(See: The Gospel)
What has been presented is evidence, not proof of mankind’s innate knowledge of God and his moral law.
If you want proof, examine your own soul, the Living and True God has not left himself without a witness. If you want objective proof, open the Bible and pray that the Spirit of God will work inwardly as He speaks to you outwardly by and through His written Word.