It's the most significant reality in the universe. It's the glue that holds every aspect of theology together. It's the place where the content of Scripture finds both its rationality and its reliability.
This doctrine provides vital information for the scientist, the psychologist, the mathematician, the business executive, the educator, the physician, the politician, and the plumber. You either recognize it as true and humbly submit your life to its foundational implications, or you reject it as false and live in some form of rationality-denying delusion.
What's this doctrine I'm talking about? The doctrine of God’s existence.
HUMAN BEINGS WANT GOD TO EXIST
I was in Northern India, touring one of the high and holy cities of Hinduism, when we were invited to enter a temple. I can only describe it as "the mall of the gods." This temple was several stories high, with many hallways, and in each hallway were many rooms – like a shopping mall in America.
In each room was some kind of physical representation of the Hindu pantheon of gods. As I traveled up floor after floor, walked down hallway after hallway, and looked into room after room, my mind was blown and my heart broken. Why? This "mall of the gods" was a powerfully stunning physical portrait of a deep spiritual reality: human beings long for God to exist. This longing doesn't always result in religious activity, but it's inescapable regardless of your philosophical viewpoint.
There was something else that hit me that day, like a violent stab in the heart. If every human being has this longing for God to exist, then billions of people respond to it in a way that's horribly and destructively wrong.
Everything about that temple was wrong. Everything about it was corrupting the heart and life of the people who would go there. Everything about it was a delusion, a lie that would blind their eyes and deafen their ears to the real truths about the real God.
And yet, the people around me were beyond excited that they were in the temple. For many of them, it seemed to be the pinnacle of their spiritual experience. I wanted to scream, "No, no, no! This isn't reality! This will never satisfy your longing! This will never give you the peace your heart craves! This will never bring you close to the God your heart is hardwired to have fellowship with! This is all wrong!"
But I couldn't, and I didn't. I just walked away with a heart broken at the darkness, but at the same time, deeply thankful that my eyes had been granted sight.
THE BIBLE DOESN'T ARGUE FOR GOD'S EXISTENCE
If you think about it, the Bible doesn't lay out a logical, point-by-point argument for the existence of God. One reason for that is because the Bible wasn't written as a systematic theology textbook. But I believe there's another, more fundamental reason: the Bible doesn't contain a section proving God's existence because the Bible declares it.
You could argue that every book of the Bible is a historical declaration of the existence of God. Every form of literature in the Bible is a creative means of announcing his existence. Every command teaches what his existence means for human existence. Every theological discussion unpacks the meaning of his existence.
The story of the Bible is God's story; it never surrenders center-stage to anyone else. Just like a gripping Broadway play, nothing in the Bible would make sense if you removed the central character from the plot.
The Bible doesn't wait very long to begin its page-after-page declaration of God's existence; in fact, it doesn't wait at all! As soon as the curtains are pulled back and the lights come on, the leading character walks to central stage to deliver his most important lines: "In the beginning God…" (Genesis 1:1)
From there on out, the script begins to reveal to the audience God's power, holiness, sovereignty, wisdom, justice, grace, and much, much more. The declaration not only makes the Bible his book, but makes life and all that it contains his as well.
God exists before the story, he authors the story, and he controls the characters and the plot and the destiny of all who exist in the story. He never changes, but he controls all of the twists and turns of the plot. He creates glorious things, glorious people, and glorious events, all to give himself glory.
Why does the existence of God matter? I'm deeply convinced that we'll only ever know ourselves if we know him first. We'll only ever understand the depth of our need once we understand the expanse of his glory. We'll only understand the true meaning of our life when we first embrace the true meaning of his existence. We'll only know what it means to be fully human when we first live in submission to the full reality that he was, he is, and he ever will be.
In this way, the doctrine of God's existence is not some academic, distant-from-reality, dusty "back of the theology library" book for us to ruminate about. No, it's perhaps the most practical and formative thing we could ever analyze. We simply can't embrace this truth and walk away unchanged.
THREE WAYS GOD DECLARES HIS EXISTENCE
So how does the Bible declare God's existence? Here are three themes woven throughout the Scriptures that bind the biblical story together:
1. God Declares His Existence Through His Creation
The existence of God is preached to us through the most visible work of his powerful hands: the physical world around us. You don't have to travel very far from where you are right now - in fact, you don't have to travel at all - to see and experience the amazing, multi-faceted glories of the physical world in which you live.
The more you take time to use your senses, the more locations you visit, or the more you try to understand how things operate and how created things interconnect and depend on one another, the more blown away you become. Just when you think you've seen it all, something even more amazing surprises you.
The Bible is very clear that all of these physical glories are intentionally designed to point you to God (see Psalm 19 and Romans 1). All of the things you can taste, touch, smell, and see are designed not only to persuade you of God's existence, but to blow you away with his glory.
The wonders of creation that scientists are just scratching the surface of understanding are a daily argument for the astounding wisdom, power, and glory of the One who created each of those wonders.
2. God Declares His Existence Through His Providence
There's a way in which the biblical story has only three fundamental elements to it:
- God tells you what he is going to do (Prophecy)
- Then he tells how he did it (Narrative)
- Finally he interprets what he has done (Doctrine)
Now the only way the biblical story can move in this way is if the God behind the story has absolute control over every location, event, person, and thing. There isn't any luck, fate, or chance. There are no fortunate moments where uncontrolled circumstances intersect and result in something positive.
If you study not only biblical history but the move of human history in general, you won't be confronted with the theology of chance but rather with the theology of God's providence. Of course, from street level it can often look like chaos reigns, with fate and chance interspersed, but from the helicopter level you're confronted with a story that moves according to the will of someone greater than any of us, no matter how great or powerful we may be (see Daniel 4:34-35).
3. God Declares His Existence Through His Grace
There's no explanation for the blessings we all experience, even in this broken world, other than the fact that there exists a God of awesome and generous grace. He graces us with his patience, he graces us with his provision, he graces us with strength, he graces us with wisdom, he graces us with moral awareness, he graces us with mercy, and the list could go on and on.
His grace is not only seen in his willingness to let his justice tarry for another day so that we would all have another opportunity to confess our rebellion and run to his mercy (see 2 Peter 3:9), but it's also seen in what we experience every day (see Matthew 5:43-45). We don't deserve the warmth of the sun, the life-giving rain, the luxurious taste of a good meal, the sweetness of a human kiss, the awesome beauty of a mountain range, the sound of well-crafted music, the ability to paint beauty onto a canvas or write an engaging story, or to harness a bacteria and make it work for good.
These all exist and bless our lives because behind life exists a God of amazing grace. You just can't live one single day of your life without being blessed by his grace in some form.
WHY WE DON'T BELIEVE GOD EXISTS
If God works to make his existence so obvious, why don't more people acknowledge it? It's in answering this that we're confronted with one of the most tragic effects of sin: it blinds our eyes and hardens our hearts.
Sin enables us to look at the glories of creation and not see God. Sin sometimes causes us to be blindly willful and other times causes us to be willfully blind. Sometimes we look and don't see what we were meant to see and other times we look and refuse to acknowledge what we see (see Romans 1:18-32).
Not only are we blind but we're blind to our blindness! We tell ourselves that we see, know, and understand when we don't see clearly, when we don't know deeply, and when we don't interpret well. So if you're able to see the obvious and understand it in a way that alters how you think about yourself and how you live your life, you can rest assured that the grace of God has visited you.
It takes eye-opening grace to see, accept, and understand the core declaration of the Bible: that God exists and rules in power, holiness, wisdom, and grace. Knowing God begins with the operation of his grace and our acknowledgment that we need it. Without that grace, there's no argument powerful enough to convince you of his existence. Without that grace, we're left to look at a glorious display and not see the One of glory who created and controls it.
May we never grow to take the miracle of that grace for granted!