The story goes that an atheist philosopher, while dying, was visited by a friend, who asked, “You’ve been the world’s most famous atheist most of your life, and now you’re about to die. What if you were wrong? What would you say to God if you met him?” (Peter Kreeft, Christianity for Modern Pagans, 245). And the philosopher replied that he would say to God, “Sir, why did you not give me better evidence?”
That’s a fair question. Some think there’s not enough evidence for God. Why doesn’t God just tell everyone, “Here I am,” and then prove it and make it irresistible? What’s your answer to this question? Is God’s existence obvious to us and not to them?
The first thing we realize is that God doesn’t just say, “Here I am” and then force us to believe in Him. Why? Because, as we said in May, love doesn’t force. God, who is love, doesn’t force us to believe. When we love someone, we don’t go up to them, grab them by the shoulders, and say, “Love me!” It’s not in the nature of God to force; it’s in His nature to win; He wants to win our hearts and minds. The philosopher who wanted more evidence for God, Bertrand Russell, didn’t understand that God was trying to win Him, not force Him.
Let’s meditate deeply on the Gospel we just heard: God reveals Himself as a baby. Some were expecting the Messiah to come with a show of force, as a powerful king, but God, who’s perfectly humble, chose a more hidden path. He’s born to a poor family in a small, unimportant village. And the first people to recognize Him are wise men, probably from Persia, who are searching for the king of the Jews.
Would we recognize a crying and helpless baby to be the all-powerful God? (Cf. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Matthew 1-13, 27). Would we kneel down before a baby who’s just a few days old? The wise men did. They recognized what God was revealing. How? Because they were humble and thoughtful. Humble people, that is, people who are searching, were the first ones to find the humble God.
In the second reading, we have a similar example of God revealing Himself: St. Paul says, “Surely you have already heard… how the mystery was made known to me by revelation” (Eph 3:2), meaning that certain truths about Jesus, the Church, and the Gentiles were revealed to him directly by God. And why were these truths revealed to St. Paul and not to other people? One thing is for sure: It’s because he was sincerely searching for them. Even though he persecuted Christians at one point, he was doing it out of ignorance; he was sincerely trying to do God’s will and didn’t know any better (Cf. 1 Tim 1:13, Phil 3:6).
So, hearts that are searching for God will find the heart of God who’s revealing Himself to them. It’s all about hearts searching for each other. The heart of God is always revealing Himself—will we notice it?
Bertrand Russell wanted better evidence, and many people today want evidence, because science and reason supposedly say God doesn’t exist—what do you say to that? Many never find God because they don’t know where to look for Him. Yet even in our scientific and rationalistic culture, God is still revealing Himself to us. Here are three ways, part of what Fr. Robert Spitzer, SJ, calls “intellectual evangelization,” which is catered to those people who make decisions primarily based on reason.
1) Dr. Francis Collins, former director of the Human Genome Project, one of the most important scientific projects of the last century, was reared without faith, and felt that faith was the result of an emotional experience or childhood indoctrination. But during his medical practice he realized he had arrived at his atheism without looking at the evidence.
So, he met a pastor, started reading Mere Christianity, and from there said, “I realized… that one can come to belief on a rational basis and that… given the many pointers… around oneself in terms of the universe, and it having a beginning, and its fine-tuning in terms of the ways in which all those constants determine the behaviour of matter and energy, seem to have been set just in a certain, very precise range to make life possible… it makes you think the creator must have been a mathematician. That brought me to the person of Jesus Christ as a person who was historically extremely well-documented… and I realized… that… we have a great deal of evidence for His existence, and His teachings, and even His rising from the dead.”
(Start at 10:18; finish at 13:50.)
Dr. Collins mentioned fine-tuning, that our universe is so finely tuned that it seems as if it were arranged by an intelligence. This is what’s called the argument for God from design, and it goes like this: Imagine you’re flying over a deserted island and see stones on the shore of a beach spelling out SOS—how likely is it that the waves just washed these stones ashore in this configuration? Unlikely.
Once, two scientists were having a conversation, and one said, “Isn’t it wonderful that our rocket is going to hit the moon by chance?” The other objected, “What do you mean, chance? We put millions of man-hours of design into that rocket.” “Oh, you don’t think chance is a good explanation for the rocket? Then why do you think it’s a good explanation for the universe? There’s much more design in the universe than in a rocket” (Peter Kreeft, Fundamentals of the Faith, 25).
Where there’s a design, we intuitively know there’s a designer. And if there’s an incredibly well-designed universe like ours, it’s exceedingly unlikely that it occurred by chance. So what’s an adequate explanation?
When Dr. Collins mentioned constants, he meant that the conditions for life to develop in our universe are so perfect that it seems it can’t be an accident. For example, if the gravitational constant of the universe were changed by 1 part in 1050 (that’s 1 with 50 zeros behind it), then either the universe collapses or explodes—that’s very bad for life (Fr. Robert Spitzer, SJ, New Proofs for the Existence of God, 59-60). Is it likely that it’s all just a random accident?
And there are many more constants that point to a designed universe. The astronomer Fred Hoyle said, “A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature” (Spitzer, 73).
I have to thank people here who have challenged me to listen to the other side of the argument. What I found was that, in order to get around the argument for a designer, they suggest, e.g., that there are many universes that we just can’t see, and ours just happens to be one where all the factors perfectly line up. But Dr. Stephen Barr, a physicist, says it’s interesting how, to get away from a designer, a God who isn’t observable, they create “an unobservable infinity of planets” (Dr. Stephen Barr, Modern Physics and Ancient Faith, 75).
2) Dr. Peter Kreeft argues based on reason that for morality to exist, there must be a God. Here’s a short video that many people have found very persuasive:
3) Finally, Dr. Collins mentions the evidence for Jesus—We know He exists, but what’s the evidence for Him to be God? Most Christians trust Jesus because different things they’ve thought about during life plus various experiences line up and point in the direction of trusting Jesus—this is good, but it’s not persuasive to many people.
What is more logical is the argument we considered last spring: We talked about how the Gospels haven’t changed in 2,000 years, how the writers weren’t lying or biased, and passed on the historical words and actions of Jesus through informal controlled tradition.
These historical records show Jesus identifying Himself as God. Now, if He wasn’t God, then either He’s a lunatic or a liar. But everyone says He was a good man, so He wasn’t a liar; and the evidence points to the fact that Jesus wasn’t delusional, but very rational. So, we’re left with the option that what He said about Himself was true. Some people may not start believing in Jesus because of this, but no one can accuse us of being irrational or that there’s no evidence.
No matter where we are in our faith, let’s ask God to make Himself known to us. Just as the wise men and St. Paul were searching, we should always search and be humble. And if we know anyone who’s searching, maybe we can share with them these arguments or the fact that our faith isn’t blind.
There’s lots of evidence for God’s existence, if we’re humble and reflective enough to consider it. God loves the world, and so He’s always revealing Himself, not to force us, but to win us.