Can you remember those moments as a child when you lay in bed and wondered ‘how did I get here? What am I? Where did this all start?’
Being a child can be a wonderful place. Your mind spinning with questions and a desire to explore the world around you and discover its meaning. As we get older we often loose the edge to enquire and go deeper. Then along comes some persuasive, popular ideas carted around like a circus to every town telling us God isn’t necessary or even probable.
For many down the ages, the knowledge that a creator had ordered the world encouraged them to investigate and understand how it all fits together. But this is easily forgotten and ridiculed in today’s media.
Our kids may be satisfied for a while with our answer, ‘God made the world’, but it won’t be long before they hear the atheist view that God is not necessary, nor even likely to exist for the world to exist.
Our kids will need to know more than just ‘God made the world…look at the Bible’. They’ll need good reasons for believing and standing by the Bible’s message.
What will you say? Where will you point them?
I’m here to help.
Over the next month or so I’m going to dive into the topic of God’s existence
What I aim to do is give you some heads up about conversations you could have with your kids, just to open the discussion and let the topic ‘breathe’.
You don’t have to have all the answers, but I’m going to try and make it simple for you by giving you the main arguments for God’s existence, highlight the weakness or strength of the argument and suggest a way of starting a conversation with your kids. It’s by no means going to be exhaustive, but hopefully easy enough for you to consume and get some solid bearings.
Three main answers are usually offered for God’s existence (though a fourth could be added, namely, Anselm’s Ontological argument, but I don’t think it’s going to help you much, so I’ve ignored it here)
I’m going to suggest two more that are often ignored but are essential. So, stay tuned for the whole series as I’ve got some great stuff coming your way, including videos and music for your kids from Anton’s Antics that will build solid resilience in their walk with Christ against atheism.
Today let’s look at CAUSE, that is what might have caused everything in the first place.
A couple of housekeeping matters:
First, remember to be praying for your kids and the conversations you hope to have. Ask God to lead you and help you listen.
Second, don’t shut down conversation even if you think your kids are wrong. Let them explore. Remember you don’t have to have all the answers, come back to them with more guidance later if you’re struggling.
Let’s get ready to give an answer to How do we know God is really there?
The first way we might argue for God’s existence outside of the Bible is Cause:
1. CAUSE: Everything must have started somewhere, so how did it start? God the Great Causer:
Since we know that the universe didn’t always exist and that it is expanding (according the discoveries of the Hubble Telescope), so the idea of something or someone starting it is often offered as a justification for God’s existence. God is the great causer of all things but he himself is not caused. (Crain, Keeping Kid’s On God’s Side). The idea of a great causer or ‘unmoved mover’, has been around at least since Aristotle (384-322BC). While Aristotle’s ‘unmoved mover’ or ‘Final Cause’ wasn’t a personal or knowable God, the universe finding its reason and purpose in always being in motion, toward ‘it’, in some ways does remind us of the eternal God of the Bible who created all things out of nothing, giving them purpose (Genesis 1).
I want to encourage you to let your kid’s imagination work a while:
You might begin a conversation with your kids like this: ‘if the universe started somewhere, how did it begin?’
They may quickly answer ‘God started it’.
We might reply, ‘if God made the world, then who made God? Where does He start?
Here we are seeing if they can make the jump from the temporal to the eternal. We hopefully can allow them to see the possibility of a world of beginnings and dependence (temporal, our universe) that we know and another realm that has no beginning and independence (God).
Your kids may already believe that God made everything, and I think it’s helpful to show them verses like Colossians 1:15-27 that show us that all the world we know and continue to learn more about and even the spiritual world beyond, was made by God and has its beginning and end in Christ Jesus. Yet God himself exists without start and without end.
Be aware of assumptions we all make
Now to be fair, this requires us to make assumptions about the universe, namely that something non- physical is needed to kick things off. We also are assuming that infinite regress is not possible; something or someone had to exist without cause or beginning that caused everything else to begin. Atheist may wish to argue that the universe is quite fine all by itself to deliver the sophisticated universe we now enjoy and may be subject to infinite regress. Of course, this also requires atheists to have the opposite assumptions, regress is possible/likely, and the universe contains in and of itself ‘god like’ qualities to pursue its destiny and produce the world we see.
But Doesn’t science disprove God’s existence or make it very unlikely?
Let’s go a step further. You might also say to your kids, ‘but if we can’t prove that God is there scientifically, then doesn’t that mean God is not there?’
This kind of reasoning is often championed by the atheist who overstate science’s ability to explain our existence; ‘what cannot be investigated by science…cannot be known’ (Betrand Russell).
This is simply not true. The assumption here is that science brings about our only source of knowledge and that if it can’t answer it, then it can’t be known. Hmmm. You may wish to recall that the Bible is emphatic that mankind cannot know the mind of God, even though evidence for him is clearly found in the world around him (Romans 1). Or even be more basic than that and suggest that science can’t tell you why your mum baked a cake for you the other day, though it can tell you what’s in it and how it came to be a cake (Lennox). ‘A man’s got to know his limitations’, said Clint Eastwood (Dirty Harry). We must ask the same of any discipline, including science.
Agency vs Mechanics: an important distinction
But what is important here is to distinguish for our kids between agency and mechanics or ‘the why’ from ‘the how’. Science does well to explain how things work but cannot tell us why. Not in a moral or ‘meaning of life’ sense. All science can do is explain the mechanics and that it is so.
Other scientists, and not just those of Christian faith, recognize the limits of science. The limit of science’s ability is made clear by its inability to answer child-like questions such as ‘how did everything begin? What are we here for?’ (Lennox). In one sense there may be a scientific explanation for how the world began, but not necessarily its purpose or meaning.
Let each discipline do its job: Theology and Science not Theology VS Science.
I think what matters here is that the ‘Cause’ argument explains not the mechanism, how the world started but the agent, what or who started the world.
In talking with our kids, we need to show them how the Bible then, does not try to be a science textbook. It is not trying to explain the mechanisms of our world and its origins. Instead it gives credit to the agent, who caused it and purpose to our existence, why we are here, how we should live. Therefore, we should not allow purpose itself to be dismissed as an illusion just because science can’t investigate it. (Lennox, p43)
You may also like to suggest that the reason many bothered to do science was that they knew they could investigate the world and get results that are useful because we live in a world that is ordered and purposeful.
You may like to point out that many great scientists have also been believers. Here’s a link to a few:
At this point you could perhaps also play devil’s advocate and ask your kids:
Some people, who do not believe in God (are called atheists) say that the world made itself, it just started and kept going. What do you think about that?
Human investigation cannot verify infinite regression or God’s lack of existence. Therefore, we can show our kids that to be reasonable, scientists or atheists shouldn’t make more claims than they can prove and rule out God. Perhaps, we may admit infinite regression may be possible, but equally possible then is God’s existence. We reach a stalemate and need to look elsewhere for clues apart from science.
What we can offer our kids is the Bible’s claim to revelation. That is, knowledge that cannot be found by human endeavor (1 Corinthians 1-2), ‘the world in its wisdom did not know the mind of God but it was foolish to them otherwise they would not have crucified Jesus’. This raises the possibility of reliable knowledge outside of science, yet not in competition or at war with science as we’ll see later.
In summary this conversation, can equip your kids with a few effective defenses against atheism:
- As they become aware that great science has been done by both people of faith and unbelievers, they’ll appreciate that science doesn’t have to be the enemy of faith. Further, science makes more sense with faith in God than without. This is because an ordered and purposeful universe encourages people to do science in the first place. Without order and purpose there is no reason why we should expect to investigate anything and get reliable information.
- They’ll will recognize that for science to be honest, it has limits. Atheists have overreached when they claim science has made God obsolete. That question is beyond science’s ability to answer.
- Those who wish to place all answers in the hands of science inevitably make ‘gods’ out of the very order they investigate. This is because to explain what the universe’s origins and behavior they end up banishing the one God and replacing it with a universe where every particle has god-like qualities making and shaping our world of themselves. The question we should be asking is ‘where do such particles or processes like natural selection get their purposeful intelligence from? (Lennox 51).
- That the Bible or theology and science are different disciplines, one describing the how or mechanics of the universe and its origins, the other giving the agency and reason for our existence. Consequently, the two are complimentary, not enemies. We should not then place scientific expectations on the Bible, nor questions of purpose upon scientific investigation.
- Cause opens the possibility of an explanation of not just how the world was made but why and what is life’s purpose and encourages to pursue knowledge that can explain life’s meaning.
One weakness to watch for CAUSE - Appendix
One of the weaknesses of the Cause argument for Christians may be that it has often been derived from the idea that God doesn’t change. That is, everything in our world changes and moves because God first ‘changed it’ or ‘moved it’ and continues to do so. But he himself is not part of that change or movement. The assumption here is God is perfect and perfect does not change, otherwise God would be imperfect or deficient somehow. However, when we look at the incarnation, ‘God became man’, we see that God for the first time includes humanity into the Godhead. Thus, in some sense there is ‘change’ in God’ without Him being deficient or less than God in doing so. In some ways the ‘unmoved mover’ reminds us of the Bible’s creator, originator of all things. Yet Yahweh of the Bible is also different to the unmoved mover…not ashamed to call us ‘his sons’ and adopt us as his children, even our physical bodies. So, we may not wish to shut down all ideas of development…and perhaps even regression. If God can incorporate humanity into himself, then looking back to Genesis, we do in some way see a kind of ‘regression’ without loss of God. This is just a thought, a musing; take or leave it. But it should give us pause to be ready to rethink our assumptions considering what the Bible is saying. A lot of Greek philosophical thought has filtered our reading of the scriptures down the ages.
Useful Texts: John C Lennox – God’s Undertaker/Natasha Crain – Keeping Kids on God’s Side.
Was this useful? Try using it in your home and let me know how it goes. If I can improve it to make it more helpful, less technical, or whatever, let me know.
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