Theology: The Being of God
LESSON SEVEN
"Does God Exist?"

Douglas Gleason, AncientLight.org

A.    Introduction to Theology Proper

1.    Introduction

a)    Lesson Outline

III. Theology Proper:  The Person of God
      A.  Introduction
                  1.  Lesson Outline
                  2.  General
      B.  Does He Exist?
                  1.  The Problem
                  2.  What the Scriptures Teach
                              a)  The Law
                              b)  The Prophets
                              c)  The Historical Books
                              d)  Poetry and Wisdom
                              e)  Early Christianity and Acts
                              f)   Pauline Writings
                              g)  Johannine Writings
                              h)  Other New Testament Writings
                  3.  Systematic Formulation
                              a)  The Witness of Intuition
                              b)  The Biblical Witness
                              c)  Rational Proofs for the Existence of God
                                          (a)  The Cosmological Argument
                                          (b)  The Teleological Argument
                                          (c)  The Anthropological or Moral Argument
                                          (e)  The Ontological Argument
                              (d)  The Definition of God
                                          (a)  Major Old Testament Designations    
                                          (b)  A Theological Statement
                  4.  Anti-Theistic Theories
                              (a)  Atheism
                              (b)  Agnosticism
                              (c)  Deism
                              (d)  Pantheism
                              (e)  Polytheism
                              (f)  Dualism
                  5.  Application

b)     General

Lewis Chafer defined theology proper as “a scientific investigation into what may be known of the existence, Persons, and characteristics of the Triune God — Father, Son, and Spirit.” [1]  In Section III, we will in these topics.  In Section IV, we will investigate the works of the Triune God.


B.    Does God Exist?

1.    The Problem

Up to this point in our discussions, we have assumed that God exists.  We will now take up this issue.  Does He really exist? How do we define God? Can we even define God? What do we mean when we say God?


2.    What the Scriptures Teach

The Scriptures universally teach the existence of God.  No attempt is made on the part of the writers to prove this, they simply assume it.  The writer to the Hebrews puts it succinctly when he says, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6) 

a)    The Law

Moses opens the book of the Law with “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) It is interesting that these, the first words of Scripture are a clear and concise statement about the existence of the Creator and the Creation. Their simplicity belies their depth of content. These seven words are the foundation of all that is to follow in the Bible. The Creator is identified as ‘God,’ (Hebrew, Elohim).  Elohim “is far from a faceless deity. From the perspective of the Pentateuch as a whole, He is the God who has called the Fathers into his good ‘land’, redeemed them from Egypt, and led them again to the borders of the a ‘land’ he provided and now calls on them to enter and possess. He is the ‘Redeemer-Shepherd’ of Jacob's blessing in [Genesis] 48:15. The purpose of 1:1 is not to identify this God as such but to identify him as the Creator of the universe.” [2]

Later in the book of the Law (the Pentateuch), Moses recorded his encounter with God speaking to him from a burning bush. (Exodus 3:13-16)  After he received instructions from God to deliver a message to the descendents of Israel, Moses responded, "Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I shall say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.' Now they may say to me, `What is His name?' What shall I say to them?"  Moses up to this point in the record identified God as Elohim.  Moses then received additional revelation about the existence of God. 

And God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM"; and He said, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, `I AM has sent me to you.'" And God, furthermore, said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, `The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.' This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.

God has now given Moses His memorial-name, ‘I AM’ (Hebrew, YAHWEH).  While we will discuss this in more depth later, this name means ‘the self existent one’.  And this is the message of the Law: God, true to His name, exists.

b)     The Prophets

Isaiah had an encounter with God early his ministry.  He said, “In the year of King Uzziah's death, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple.” (Isaiah 6:1-5)  Without doubt, Isaiah declares that God exists.

The sense of Genesis 1:1 is similar to the message in the Book of Jeremiah, that message Israel was to carry to all the nations: “Thus you shall say to them, "The gods that did not make the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens." (Jeremiah 10:11)  Here Jeremiah in a backhanded manner says that God exists for unlike the gods that exist in the imaginations of men, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who created the heavens and the earth, does in fact exist.  The gods of men will perish, the God of creation won’t.  The existence of God is affirmed and proclaimed by all the prophets. 

c)      The Historical Books

The existence of God is a message that is found throughout the historical books.  One example is offered here.  After introducing Job and his family, the story of Job shifts to a heavenly setting. “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them.” (Job 1:6) With these words, we are witness to an unfolding drama that pits the wiles of Satan against the omnipotence and omniscience of God.  This drama plays out for the rest of the book in the life of Job.  We see in this story a declaration of the existence of God.  We see in this story a declaration of the existence of a world that exists in the spiritual realm, not seen by human eyes.  Finally, we see in this story the interaction between the physical world and the spiritual world.

d)     Poetry and Wisdom

David reflected the common belief in the existence of God in company with the other writers of Scripture.  He declared, “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is Thy name in all the earth.” (Psalm 8:1)  From the reign of Solomon to the reign of Zedekiah over and over again the writers used various phrases that acknowledged Gods existence.  One has only to scan through the books of Kings and Chronicles to see this message.

e)     Early Christianity and Acts

Consider the words of Paul to Athenian philosophers:

"Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, `TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.'  What therefore you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.” (Acts 17:22,23)

Paul was spreading the message of the existence of the one true God through out the Mediterranean world.  His message was consistent with the belief of the entire New Testament Church.

f)       Pauline Writings

That Paul believed God exists, no one can doubt.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth 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, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.” (Romans 1:18-23)

g)     Johannine Writings

From the beginning of John’s writings to the end, John is very clear that God exists.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…” and “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants…” (John 1:1, Revelation 1:18)  This is the consistent testimony of John.

h)     Other New Testament Writings

The writer to the Hebrews certainly believed God existed.  He said, “For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.” (Hebrews 3:1)  James said, “James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad, greetings. (James 1:1)  Peter said, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:5)


3.      Systematic Formulation

We have before us the question, does God exist? Some possible answers to the question, as we will see in the following, section 4, “Anti-theistic Theories,” are wide and varied.  These anti-theistic theories have denied the existence of the true God.  Let us now consider if the true God of the Bible exists. The proofs for His existence fall into three broad categories, intuition, assumption, and argumentation.    We’ll begin with the witness of the Bible, proceed to the witness of intuition and finish with some arguments that will provide at least a philosophical possibility for accepting His existence.  Finally, we’ll attempt to define God.

a)     The Witness of Intuition

Paul said very clearly that men everywhere have an intuitive knowledge of God when he said, “that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.” (Romans 1:19)   Philosophers have confirmed this universal intuitive knowledge.  Theissen quotes the anthropologist William Schmidt as saying, “This Supreme Being is to be found among all the peoples of the primitive cultures, not indeed everywhere in the same form or the same vigor, but still everywhere prominent enough to make his dominant position indubitable.” [3]

It is often pointed out that men do indeed have this intuitive knowledge but it is not universal.  Those who make this argument point to atheism for support.  However, atheism is only temporary and artificial.  Just as a child in a swing when pushed from his normal at-rest position, when the force is removed, returns to his normal position, so too will the man return to a normal belief in God when the pressure is removed.

b)     The Biblical Witness

Even the most casual scrutiny of the Bible will reveal that the writers of Scripture assume the existence of God.  They make no attempt to prove this fact.  Isaiah is representative of all the writers of Scripture when he declares in an extended passage (40:12-31), “Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been declared to you from the beginning?  Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is He who sits above the vault of the earth… who reduces rulers to nothing, Who makes the judges of the earth meaningless.” (vv. 21-22)  Note that he never argues for God’s existence, he merely states an obvious fact.  He then proceeds to describe this God whose existence he assumes. 

c)      Rational proofs for the existence of God

There are four ‘proofs’ that are generally offered for the existence of God.  They are the Cosmological, Teleological, Anthropological and Ontological arguments.  We must keep in mind three points.  First, these arguments do not independently prove God’s existence.  They corroborate our intuition.  Second, since God is Spirit, His existence cannot be proved as with material things.  Proof must come from evidence consistent with the thing to be proved.  Third, the evidence presented by these arguments is cumulative.  No single argument by itself is sufficient to prove His existence but taken together are.

The Cosmological Argument

This is an argument relating to time, space and causation.  Simply stated this argument says, everything begun must have an adequate cause.  Things don't just spontaneously come into existence from nothingness. 

Modern science has stated that sometime in the ancient past, all of the cosmic gas and dust in the universe gravitated together to form a super dense mass of material that exploded into the universe as we know it.  At some point in time, the planets began to orbit our sun.  As the earth cooled, an atmosphere formed.  As time progressed, in some pool of primordial ooze, the right chemical compound formed causing life to burst forth on our planet.  From that adamic single cell, life evolved to become as complex and as diverse as we know it today. 

We've all heard this theory stated as fact.  But the question that remains to be answered is, where did the original matter, the cosmic dust and gas, come from?  The modern scientific answer is that this question is irrelevant and therefore invalid. You see, modern science has ascribed in some degree to the Materialistic Pantheism world view which says that matter is eternal and is the cause of all life. We reject this thinking.  Mathematicians have calculated the probability of the spontaneous generation of life as being so large a number as to be impossible. We agree, therefore, with the Cosmological argument, which simply put says that a thing made must have a maker.

The Teleological Argument (order and purpose)

This is an argument based upon order and purpose.  It postulates that order and useful arrangement in a system imply intelligence and purpose in the originating cause.  Consider the words of the psalmist David (Psalm 8:1-4) who said:

O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Thy name in all the earth, Who hast displayed Thy splendor above the heavens!  From the mouth of infants and nursing babes Thou hast established strength, because of Thine adversaries,  to make the enemy and the revengeful cease.  When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained; what is man, that Thou dost take thought of him and the son of man, that Thou dost care for him?

Now consider the words (Job 37:2-13) of Job’s friend Elihu when he advises Job to:

Listen closely to the thunder of His voice, and the rumbling that goes out from His mouth.  Under the whole heaven He lets it loose, and His lightning to the ends of the earth.  After it, a voice roars; He thunders with His majestic voice; And He does not restrain the lightnings when His voice is heard.  God thunders with His voice wondrously, doing great things which we cannot comprehend.  For to the snow He says, ‘Fall on the earth,' and to the downpour and the rain,`Be strong.’  He seals the hand of every man, that all men may know His work.  Then the beast goes into its lair, and remains in its den.  Out of the south comes the storm, and out of the north the cold.  From the breath of God ice is made, and the expanse of the waters is frozen.  Also with moisture He loads the thick cloud; He disperses the cloud of His lightning.  And it changes direction, turning around by His guidance, that it may do whatever He commands it on the face of the inhabited earth.  Whether for correction, or for His world, or for lovingkindness, He causes it to happen.

Notice these words and the flow of the arguments.  David, in an earlier paragraph, sees a wondrously ordered universe, created by an orderly God.  Indeed, it is the very fact of this organization that points to God.  Elihu sees God in the course of nature, in the snow, rain, thunder, lightning, and motions of clouds.  He says in effect that God causes the order of the natural world.

“Wait a minute,” you say.  “Sure there’s order to be found in this world of ours, but there’s also a lot of disorder.  How do you account for that”?

We can safely say that because God is who He is, a God of order, all is not as you think.  Physics is the study of our universe.  The work of the physicist is to explain how the universe works.  It is of prime importance for the physicist to develop hypotheses and theorems that have the ability to predict the future of a physical system.  According to Dr. James Walker, associate professor of physics, Washington State University, “[T]here still remains a fundamental obstacle to predicting the future — chaos.” [4]

The field of chaos is one of the youngest and most rapidly developing areas of study in the world of modern physics today.  Dr. Walker continues,

“Chaos, according to many dictionaries, is a condition of total disorder or confusion — certainly the sort of situation to cloud the future.  The meaning ascribed to chaos in physics and mathematics is similar in spirit, though more precise.  For example, a system undergoing chaotic motion never repeats itself, but rather, continually does something different; thus the motion may appear quite random and disordered.  Nonetheless, chaotic motion is far from totally disordered and instead displays a definite structure that is readily apparent.” [5]

An orderly God has made order in disorder!  These two arguments, Cosmological and Teleological, lead us to the conclusion that we have in God an intelligent and original creator. 

The Anthropological or Moral Argument

This argument finds its basis in the universal concept of religion.  According to this argument, evidence of the existence of God is found by the moral consciousness of mankind.  Moses quotes God as saying, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness." (Genesis 1:26)  From this we can infer that certain aspects then of God's nature can be discovered in the nature of man.  One important aspect to consider is that men have a conscience.  It is the fact of this conscience that has formed the basis of the Moral Argument.

There exists a moral law in the world that defines what is right.  It is an absolute law and is universal.  Our conscience is the voice of this moral law.  While it never tells us what we may or may not do, it does tell us that there is a law and we have a duty to obey it. 

One further aspect of this moral law is that it is not self-imposed.  It argues that there is "a holy will that imposes this law and a punitive power that will execute the threat of our moral nature." [6]  Mankind has a moral law written in his heart that governs his conduct.  It is the fact of this universal moral law that argues for the existence of a morally perfect God.  The conscience of a man recognizes both the moral law and the Lawgiver and the certainty of punishment for the transgression of the law.

The Ontological Argument

This argument, centered upon the proposition that existence is discernable, states, the very idea of God proves His existence.  This argument is related to the essential qualities of being.  Anselm of Canterbury developed the argument like this: 

Major premise — man has the idea of an infinitely perfect being;
Minor premise — existence is a necessary part of perfection;
Conclusion      — the perfect being exists.

According to Des Cartes, man has an idea of a perfect being.  This idea could not come from a finite, imperfect being.  Therefore, a perfect being must exist somewhere.

Let’s conclude the matter.  We said earlier that no single argument will conclusively prove that God exists.   While this is true, there is one that goes a long way toward it.  In that fateful week before Jesus was to be crucified, He and the disciples were in what came to be called the upper room.  Jesus has announced that He is returning to the Father (John 14:8, 9).  Philip, saddened by this news, and seeking assurance, says, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." Philip in essence is saying, give us some proof that God is real, some proof that He exists.   

Jesus' response is instructive.  "Have I been so long with you, and yet you do not know Me, Philip?  He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how do you say, 'Show us the Father'?"  (Italics mine).  Jesus asserts that He is the proof of the Father's existence.  We have only to look for and see the Jesus of the Scriptures to see God.  This and this alone will bring absolute certainty that God exists.

d)     The Definition of God

Before attempting to define God, we’ll take a look at the major Old Testament designations.  We will not look at the New Testament designations since they do not shed any additional light on the subject.  From these designations we will gain some valuable insight into the nature of this God that we are attempting to define.

Major Old Testament Designations

Elohim

The generic Hebrew term for God is Elohim.  Some hold that it stems from a root meaning ‘fear’ or ‘dread’ and would mean ‘the one to whom one comes in fear or dread’.  It is most probably from a root meaning ‘strong’ so Elohim means ‘the strong one’. 

Occurring 2,555 times in the Old Testament, 2,310 times it refers to the name of the living and true God.  It is translated as God in the major translations of the Bible.  Its New Testament Greek equivalent is Theos.  Girdlestone says, “The name properly represented One only Being, who revealed Himself to man as Creator, Ruler, and Lord.  It was His own peculiar title, and ought to have been confined to Him.” [7]  Sadly, the other 245 times Elohim is used it is used of the heathen deities. 

Adonai

In all the major translations, Adonai (Hebrew) is translated by the English word Lord.  In the New Testament it is equivalent to kurios (Greek).  In the Old Testament it is used both of God and men.  In the case of men it is similar in meaning to the modern day ‘sir’.  When used of God it means ‘master’ or ‘almighty ruler’.

Shaddai

This meaning of this infrequently used Hebrew term, though important, is widely disputed.  The various possibilities include ‘He who is sufficient’, ‘the One Who displays great power’, ‘the Sustaining One’, ‘the Lofty and Exalted One’, or ‘the Omnipotent One’.  Most translations use ‘almighty’.  The consensus of conservative scholarship seems to settle on ‘He Who is lofty like a mountain’.

Why is there such disagreement or difficulty in settling on a particular meaning?  Cook postulates that;

“[T]he answer may lie, in part at least, in purposeful ambiguity.  Can it be that because God is ultimately ineffable [8] there is both mystery and inscrutability attached to His name(s)?  No one term, and not even many terms, can adequately capture and express the infinite nature of God.” [9]

Yahweh (YHWH)

Where the other terms that we have discussed above are properly classified as designations, Yahweh (Hebrew YHWH) is the highest name of the true God in the Bible.  The meaning of the term is disputed among Hebrew scholars.  All agree that it stems from the verb ‘to be’, however, they disagree how.  The meaning seems to be ‘existence’ or ‘being’ and refers to God as ‘The Existent One’. 

In Exodus 3:14, 15 God says, "I AM [YHWH] WHO I AM"; and He said, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, `I AM has sent me to you.' This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations."  The most common view is that Yahweh is a qal verbal form that means ‘He is’.  This carries the idea of eternity and self-existence.  Others understand a future aspect and translate YHWH as ‘He will be’ and thus “I will be Who I will be.”  Cook observes,

“If this be the proper sense it conveys the thought of the ever faithful God…  In the one case, the nature of god is revealed by the name, while in the other His relationship to His people is underscored.  Ultimately, the two cannot be separated since the latter is predicated upon the former.” [10]

The usual explanation for why the proper pronunciation of Yahweh is unknown is that the ‘Tetragram’ (YHWH) was not spoken as a matter of respect for the most holy name of God, much like not being able to look upon Him.  The Israelites never called God by His “first name,” or “personal name.”  The Scribes, Rabbis, and Cantors used the Hebrew term “Adonai” when reading aloud instead of God’s proper name.  In those instances when the proper name of God was used with the title “Adonai” in the Scriptures, then they would say “Adonai, Elohim” to avoid the double “Adonai.”

Pronunciation of the proper name of God completely fell out of use over the centuries and the once-held reverence for the name became superstition based on the misunderstood interpretation of Leviticus 24:10-16.  In a conflict with another, an Israelite man “blasphemed the Name and cursed.”  He was brought before Moses to determine what should be done.  Moses enquired of the Lord, who responded,

Bring the one who has cursed outside the camp, and let all who heard him lay their hands on his head; then let all the congregation stone him.  And you shall speak to the sons of Israel, saying, `If anyone curses his God, then he shall bear his sin.  `Moreover, the one who blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall certainly stone him. The alien as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.

Just what this man’s crime was is hard to say. It may well have been more than thoughtless profanity.  What is clear is that the Israelites, as a result of this event, would no longer pronounce the name of God. 

A quirk of ancient Hebrew compounds the problem.  There were no vowels in the Hebrew alphabet.  The original text of the Old Testament books was written with consonants only.  The vowels were simply understood or supplied by the reader.  During the exile years the Hebrews developed a system of “pointing” the Hebrew text with marks that told them what vowel should be used to supply proper pronunciation.  Since they did not know the proper pronunciation of “YHWH,” they “pointed” the four letters with the vowels from the word “Adonai.”  Originally this was done to facilitate a reminder that the proper name of God was to be replaced with “Adonai,” but this later became the accepted vowels for the suspected pronunciation of the term and we then had the name Jehovah.  They settled on YaHWeH.  This is how we pronounce the name today. All things considered, however it is pronounced, we may understand YHWH as the name that declares God as the self-existent one.

In a passage related to Exodus 3:14 an angel of the LORD came to Joseph in a dream, saying,

Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.  And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins. Now all this took place that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, ‘BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD, AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,’ which translated means, ‘GOD WITH US’. (Matthew 1:19-23,)

Matthew connects this promised son who is to be called Jesus to Isaiah’s Emmanuel (cf., Isaiah 7:14).  The name Emmanuel stems from the same root as YHWH and literally means His name is ‘immanent’.  From this we can infer that He is the Living One who is actively and personally involved in His creation.

A theological statement

From the foregoing, in the final analysis, I don’t think that God can be completely defined.  At best, a description of the known characteristics of God may be given but His essential being remains unexplained.  We offer the following inadequate statement as a working definition:  God is a self existent, self-conscious, personal being, who is the origin of all things, and who transcends the whole creation while being immanent in it.  We will discuss the aspects of this definition in subsequent articles in some depth.  However we must say that when we say God transcends the whole of creation, we mean that He is greater than creation, that He exceeds the limits of creation.  He is above creation.  By ‘immanent in it’ we mean that He is not a mere observer in His creation but that He is actively and personally involved with and in it. 

4.      Anti-theistic Theories

With its roots in Judaism, the church has from its inception harbored a settled belief in the existence of God.  Although, as Paul said,  “since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made,” men, even though they knew God, “did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.  Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.” (Romans 1:20-23)  Man’s downward spiral to idolatry began from the time that Adam first sinned and was expelled from Eden.  It was complete by the time of Noah when men universally denied the existence of the God of creation.  This denial exists to this day and is seen in a number of anti-theistic theories.

a)     Atheism

Atheism is that philosophy which denies the existence of the God of Scripture.  This is manifested in three distinct types, practical, theoretical, and dogmatic atheism.  Practical Atheism refers to the attitude of godless persons who live as if there is no God.  While they may consciously hold no particular view whether or not God exists, they live as if He doesn’t.  People who hold this view are not confirmed atheists but excuse their own indifference to a belief in God on the basis of inconsistencies (what they would call hypocrisy) in the lifestyle of religious people.  Theoretical atheism bases its denial of God on some process of reasoning, generally a scientific or philosophical system.  Dogmatic atheism is the type that assumes that it knows all about the claims of theism (religion) yet emphatically denies the existence of God.

There is no form of atheism that is personally satisfying to the human soul because atheism is contrary to the witness of man’s nature.  To be an atheist one must of necessity have to force his intuition and reason which tells him that God is to say otherwise.   It is also an arrogant philosophy in that it implies omniscience.  One with limited knowledge can infer the existence of God.  But exhaustive knowledge on all things is required to dogmatically state that there is no God.

b)     Agnosticism    

Agnosticism is the term that is sometimes applied to any doctrine that denies the possibility of any true knowledge, that all knowledge is relative and uncertain.  In theology agnosticism takes a narrower scope which denies that neither the existence nor the nature of God, nor the ultimate nature of the universe, is or can be known.  In the realm of science, August Comte (1798-1859), founder of the form of agnosticism called Positivism, held that only observed facts could be considered as true.  If anything could not be examined scientifically it was not knowable.  Since the idea of God could not be subject to scientific examination it was not provable.  Albert Einstein dealt positivism a death blow with the publication of his Special Theory of Relativity in 1910.  The theory of Relativity demonstrated that we had to deal with the intangibles, in this instance the relationship of time and space, energy and matter, when we consider the physical world. 

In philosophy and theology, Pragmatism (another form of agnosticism) rejects a special revelation.  It declares that reason is incompetent in the study of ultimate reality.  Pragmatists believe that one must, therefore, abandon reason to determine ultimate reality.  However, since it is often intellectually painful and even impossible to do so one must be pragmatic and adopt any view which yields the best results.  In other words, one must concoct any view which in the mind of the concoctor best explains the existence of God which is ultimate reality.

Thiessen says that we must reject agnosticism “because it suffers from the same spiritual impoverishment as does the atheistic… it is unstable, in that it admits that it has not attained to absolute certainty.” [11]

c)      Deism

According to Deism, God is present in His creation only by His power, not in His very being and nature.  He has endowed creation with invariable laws over which He exercises a mere general oversight.  Deism denies special revelation, miracles, and providence.  It claims that all truths about God are discoverable by reason, and that the Bible is merely a book on the principles of natural religion, which are ascertainable by the light of nature.

Christians must reject this view because we believe that we have a special Revelation of God that is found in the Bible.  This revelation states that God is present and active in His Universe, that He exercises providential control over His creation.  We learn that He answers prayer, that He sometimes uses miracles to accomplish His purpose.  This is a far cry from the Deist view that God is disengaged.

d)     Pantheism

Pantheism “is a theory which regards all finite things as merely aspects, modifications, or parts of one eternal and self-existent being; which views all material objects, and all particular minds, as necessarily derived from a single infinite substance.” [12]  There are several varieties of pantheism:

Materialistic pantheism:  Matter is the cause of all life and mind.

Hylozoism and Panpschyism:  These are two types; 1all matter has a principle of life in addition to its physical properties; 2mind and matter are distinct but intimately and inseparably united.

Neutralism:  Ultimate reality is neither mind nor matter but a neutral substance of which mind and matter are but appearances or aspects.

Idealism:  Ultimate reality is of the nature of mind and the world is the product of mind, either of the individual mind or of the infinite mind.

Philosophical mysticism:  Ultimate reality is a unit, it is indescribable; the human self is not merely like it [ultimate reality] in kind, but identical with it; and union with this absolute is realized by moral effort rather than theoretical abstractions.

The definition above says all material objects necessarily derive from infinite substance.  Everything exists of necessity, because it must.  Everything acts of necessity, again because it must.  There is, therefore, no freedom in the universe to act and no accountability for one’s actions.  This is akin to modern concepts of crime.  A person commits a crime because there was something in his background that made him do it.  He was, for example, abused as a child, so he abuses now.  He is therefore not responsible, he acted of necessity.  The result of this thinking is that because everything acts as it does of necessity, then error and sin are a necessity.  Sin, then, being necessary, does not require condemnation, but rather is viewed as mere weakness or a stage of development. This view must be rejected. 

e)     Polytheism

Polytheism is that belief which distributes the perfections and functions of the infinite God among many limited gods.  Polytheism has been with mankind since the dawn of history.  However, some anthropologists have shown that (as the Bible states) Monotheism (belief in one God) was the original religion of mankind. They think that “the first departure from monotheism seems to have been in the direction of nature worship.” [13]  This is consistent with Paul’s statements in Romans 1 where he says mankind has willingly turned from the one true God to gods made from nature.  The Bible has uniformly declared these ‘gods’ to exist only in the minds of fallen men and without the power to save. [14]  It also, at times has made out these gods to be demons.  Paul said, But I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons.  You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. [15]

f)       Dualism           

Dualism is a doctrine that the universe is under the dominion of two opposing principles one of which is good (God) and the other evil (Satan).  These two principles are co-equal and eternal.    Dualism is to be found in several philosophical systems.  Epistemology is the study of the basis of knowledge or how we know reality.  Epistemological Dualism postulates that thought and thing are two distinct entities.  Similarly, Metaphysical Dualism distinguishes mind and matter as its two principles.  Ethical Dualists hold up standards of an absolute right and wrong for their principles.  More important from a Christian standpoint is the Religious Dualism of Gnosticism and Manicheanism that plagued the early church.

Gnosticism derived in the main from Zoroastrianism the religion of 6th Century BC Persia.  It seems that the Gnostics came on the scene during the second half of the first Century AD.  In order to solve the problem of good and evil they postulated two gods; A Supreme God and a Demiurge.  The Supreme God is entirely good.  The God of the Old Testament is the Demiurge (Greek, one who works for the people), a subordinate deity who is the creator of the Universe.  In the Gnostic concept of good and evil, spirit is good, matter is evil.  Because the Universe is material, it is evil and the Demiurge is evil.  There is a constant conflict between the Supreme God and the Demiurge that is played out chiefly in and among human beings.

Manichius (ca. 225) founded the philosophy that bears his name.  He blended Oriental dualism of Old Babylonia with Christianity into what he thought was a harmonious whole.  He viewed himself as an Apostle of Christ and the promised Paraclete of John 14.  In order to bring about this synthesis of dualism and Christianity, he sought to purge Judaism from Christianity and substitute it with Zoroastrianism.  The result was a distinction between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness which were in perpetual conflict with one another.  Augustine was a member of this sect until his conversion.

Dualism is a philosophy that attempts to explain the existence of good and evil in the world.  While this problem is admittedly a difficult one for any philosophy, the Christian as well, Dualism is an inadequate solution.  The two powers of Dualism, good and evil are finite because both are co-equal in power and neither is therefore omnipotent.  A finite god cannot satisfy the needs of the human heart for what guarantee is there for the ultimate triumph of good over evil?  A finite god does not absolve good from the responsibility for evil.  The God of Scripture, the only true God, is not the creator of evil as Scripture clearly states.  Evil is said to have been found in Satan.  For whatever reason, God chose to permit it without being the source of it.  Scripture further maintains that evil is not eternal for it had its beginnings with Satan and will end with the triumph of Jesus Christ over Satan at the end of His millennial reign.


5.      Application

In this chapter, we have presented several of the traditional philosophical arguments that attempt to prove the existence of God.  However, no mere philosophical argument will ever convince an unsaved man to believe in God.  This man is a fool.

The dictionary defines a fool as: (1) fool [ME , fr. OF  fol,… ] 1: a person lacking in judgment or prudence…

This is how the Bible defines a fool.

"The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God,'
They are corrupt, and have committed abominable injustice;
There is no one who does good.

God has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men,
To see if there is anyone who understands, Who seeks after God.
Every one of them has turned aside; together they have become corrupt;

There is no one who does good, not even one." (Psalm 53:1-3)

So David opens the 53rd Psalm and so Stephen Charnock opens his monumental work entitled Discourses on the Existence and Attributes of God.  Charnock then proceeds to describe the fool as "one that hath lost his wisdom and right notion of God and divine things, which were communicated to man by creation; one dead in sin, yet one not so much void of rational faculties, as of grace in those faculties; not one that wants reason, but abuses his reason."[16]

We should take note that the fool is one who has lost what he once had, his intuitive knowledge of God's existence.  Sadly, this fool has lost this knowledge not by the lack of reason but rather by the abuse of his reason.  We spoke in an earlier chapter of the general and special revelation of God.  This revelation was designed by God to be sufficient to cause a man to recognize His existence and realize his sinful condition.  Man had sufficient reasoning powers that were a gift from God to allow him to do this.  However, the fool, as Charnock says, has abused his reason by willfully using that reason to conclude that there is no God in spite of all the evidence to the contrary.  Instead he turns to the formulation of such vain philosophies as atheism, agnosticism, pantheism, polytheism, or dualism.  Our task is to live our lives in such a way that the fool can see the living Christ in us.  To loudly proclaim the God who is, the God of the Bible. 



[1] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, (Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI, 1993), Volume 1, 129
[2] John Sailhammer, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Frank Gaebelein, ed. (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 1990), in. loc.
[3] William Schmidt, The Origin and Growth of Religion, (The Dial Press, New York, 1935), p.  257, cited by Theissen, op. cit, p. 55
[4]   James S. Walker, Chaos: An orderly Disorder, cited by Paul A. Tipler, Physics for Scientists and Engineers, Third Edition, Vol. 1,  /(Worth Publishers, New York, NY, 1991) , p. 397
[5] Walker, ibid.
[6]  Theissen, Op. cit., p. 62  
[7] Robert J. Girdlestone, Synonyms of the Old Testament,(Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI, 1976), p. 19
[8] Ineffable: incapable of being expressed in words.
[9] W. Robert Cook, Systematic Theology in Outline Form, (Western Conservative Baptist Seminary, Portland, OR), Volume 1, p. 55
[10] Cook, op. cit., p. 54
[11] H.C. Thiessen, Introductory Lectures in Systematic Theology, (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI, 1949), p. 67
[12] Robert Flint, Anti-Theistic Theories, (Wm. Blackwood & Sons, Edinburgh, 1899), cited by Thiessen, op. cit., p. 67
[13] Theissen, op. cit., p. 72
[14] cf. Psalm 106:28, 29; Isaiah 41:24,29; 42:17; 44:9-20; Jeremiah 2:26-28.
[15] 1 Corinthians 10:20
[16]   Stephen Charnock, Discourses on the Existence and Attributes of God, (Sovereign Grace Publishers, Grand Rapids Michigan, 1971), p 11