For many people, there’s no need for God.

Estimates suggest that 15-20% of the world’s population now holds an atheistic worldview, rejecting the idea of the supernatural and relying solely on naturalism to explain the universe and life within it. YouGov statistics from November 2020 revealed that 41% of the UK population now align themselves with the statement, ‘I don’t believe in a god or a higher spiritual power’.(1)

Additionally, the Buddhist religion, practised by an estimated 535 million people worldwide, does not require faith or belief in a god and does not include the concept of a god. While it accepts the supernatural, such as reincarnated figures who can help or hinder people on the path towards enlightenment, the existence of a supreme deity is irrelevant.

As Christians, how might we interact with some of those who say, “There is no God”?

One way is to consider the necessity of God: that life and the universe demand, rather than deny, the reality of ‘the God who is there’, as Francis Schaeffer put it. It’s how we interpret the data and the evidence that makes all the difference.

Think about the reality of our existence for a moment. Our English word ‘exist’ comes from the Latin existo which means ‘to stand forth from, to come forth’. In our understanding of the world, all that exists relies on something before it for that existence; everything we know has come out of something before it! Of necessity, then, for anything to exist, there must be something before that existence that is, itself, not contingent on anything else! That would point to an eternal immaterial God, such as the one revealed to us in the Bible.

Those who do not believe in God struggle to provide a coherent explanation for existence. Someone who tries to argue that energy existed before matter, and was the cause of creation, has no way of explaining how that energy came to be. As astronomer and planetary physicist Prof. Robert Jastrow said, ‘The Universe flashed into being, and we cannot find out what caused that to happen.’(2) Yet, naturalist(3) scientists continue to invent hypothetical objects, that have never been observed, to maintain their theories and worldview!

If you’re still with me, let’s think about the necessity of God this way:

Those who say there’s no God must have a coherent explanation for
1. How everything came from nothing;
2. How order came from chaos;
3. How life has arrived from non-life;
4. How minds have developed from mindless matter.

How did everything come from nothing?

We’ve already considered the atheist’s difficulty in explaining this without recourse to the continual postulation of new, untested and unverifiable theories.

Christians turn to the Bible and read, among other texts, In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth(4) and by faith we understand that the world has been created by the word of God so that what is seen has not been made out of things that are visible.(5) This truly is a matter of faith, but it’s not ‘blind faith’ as many suggest. Rather, it’s a reasonable faith based on the evidence of our very existence. We believe that God is spirit(6) and that this God calls into being things that do not exist.(7) This immaterial God revealed his name as I AM (8) – the eternally self-existent one. He has always been, and always will be. He is ‘the uncaused cause’, and he is the reason why there is everything rather than nothing.

How did order come from chaos?

Scientists are agreed that the universe had a beginning; it is not eternal. ‘The Big Bang’ is the primary creation theory taught in our schools and colleges and is what most people would say when asked how the universe came to be. The Big Bang was one huge, cosmic explosion, we’re told. Yet we know that explosions, even ‘controlled’ ones, do not result in finely tuned order; the opposite is true! That said, most people seem happy to accept that time and chance following the Big Bang has produced the delicately balanced order we see all around us.

We are fascinated by the discoveries that reveal the amazing intricacies of life and the universe; the person who says there is no God puts this purely down to blind chance. We know from experience that this is highly improbable! The Bible reveals an intellectual God of power, intention and order. A reading of Genesis chapters 1 and 2 will show us God’s direct involvement in the creation of everything, and Hebrews 1:3 speaks of His continuing involvement as He sustains what He has made. He’s the great Designer! The amazing precision and interdependency of creation point to a God infinitely greater in power and knowledge than we are.

How did life arrive from non-life?

I remember a conversation with my company boss just before leaving the firm to go out and engage in full-time Christian work. He tried to convince me that I was making a very great mistake and that there was no God to believe in, never mind serve. As we chatted around the subject he eventually, with some frustration, told me that life came from the planet Mars via an asteroid that hit the earth millions of years ago; there was no convincing him otherwise. What he was revealing was a very great weakness in the naturalistic worldview he had put his faith in – the claim that life developed from non-life. My boss recognised that natural processes on earth could not generate life from inanimate objects, so a spark of life was required from somewhere else.

The early chapters of Genesis describe God creating inanimate matter followed by living organisms. Eternally alive and all-powerful, He had what was necessary to create life in all its forms. But there’s more: Christians believe that God has the power to raise the dead to life. Looking again at Romans 4:17, the earlier part of the verse says, God, who gives life to the dead… Christians have always believed that God resurrected Jesus; He who had died was given life. That’s a core belief for genuine believers – that God can make what is without life have life, and He proved it in the person of Jesus. Christians believe in one resurrection that, without doubt, demonstrates that God creates life!

How did minds develop from mindless matter?

Our consciousness is a mysterious reality, isn’t it? Philosophers and cognitive scientists agree. The British philosopher Colin McGinn, who said that the human mind is incapable of solving the problem of consciousness, wrote, ‘we know that brains are the de facto causal basis of consciousness, but we have, it seems, no understanding whatsoever of how this can be so. It strikes us as miraculous… Somehow, we feel, the water of the physical brain is turned into the wine of consciousness, but we draw a total blank on the nature of this conversion…We want to take the magic out of the link between consciousness and the brain.’(9) There’s a real desire to remove the miraculous, or ‘the magic’. But there’s no way of doing so! Consciousness can’t be explained or understood by a naturalistic worldview that refuses to accept the supernatural.

Going back to the Bible again, we read that God made humanity in His image.(10) This means that humans were created intentionally to possess some of the attributes of God, such as consciousness, knowledge, and moral awareness. God is the source of ‘knowing’ and the giver of the consciousness we possess, the very consciousness that makes us aware of God’s necessity.

Paul wrote to the Church of God in Rome that people in his day were suppressing the truth about God in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, being understood by what has been made, so that they are without excuse.(11) It’s the same today as it was back then. People continue to suppress the truth about God in their refusal to accept that the evidence within them, and all around them, most logically points to an eternal immaterial God of infinite power and capability. As Paul continues, they became futile in their reasonings, and their senseless hearts were darkened.(12)

This very refusal to accept the evidence betrays the sinfulness of the human heart. Only God can overturn such futility and darkness in someone and we praise Him that He does. It is our task to lovingly, and winsomely, speak of our convictions with simplicity, taking people to the necessity of God for the creation and then to the necessity of God for salvation: “there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among mankind by which we must be saved.”(13)

References: (1) see https://yougov.co.uk/topics/society/articles-reports/2020/12/29/how-religious-are-british-people (2) Message from Professor Robert Jastrow, LeaderU.com, https://www.leaderu.com/truth/1truth18b.html 2002 (3) naturalism: the worldview that says Nature is all there is, without need for recourse to the supernatural. (4) Gen. 1:1 (5) Heb. 11:3 (6) John 4:24 (7) Rom. 4:17 (8) Ex. 3:14 (9) McGinn, C, Can we solve the mind-body problem? Mind, Vol.98, July 1989 https://www.jstor.org/stable/2254848 (10) see Gen. 1:26-27 (11) Rom. 1:18-20 (12) Rom. 1:21 (13) Acts 4:12

David Woods, Manchester, England

Bible quotations from NASB20