Existence probably is the best evidence that God exists. Why do we exist at all? Why at this moment do we exist? What logical causes hold together our existence even now (gravity, matter, etc.)? Every caused thing must have some logical cause here-and-now to exist. And if we trace the logical (not temporal) casual train, at one point we have to admit that some uncaused cause holds together existence even now.
To understand causation, Scripture gives us guidelines for how we should understand God and his relationship to the universe. And one particularly useful place to look is Acts 17.
When Paul travelled to Athens, he addressed the assembly at the Areopagus. His desire was to make known to the Greek audience who the unknown God was that they attempted to worship but did not understand. He explains, “What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you” (Acts 17:23).
In his explanation, he first establishes that God does not exist among created things—he is the Creator of all (Acts 17:24). Second, he affirms that God has no needs “since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25).
As Creator and sustainer of creatures, creatures seek the know the cause of their existence (in Origen and in the present). As Paul explains, God orders the world “that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27).
The reason why God is not far from any of God’s children is that “In him we live and move and have our being” and “For we are indeed his offspring” (Acts 17:28). Through citing others, Paul affirms that God sustains our very being at all moments since we all are “his offspring,” his creation.
Yet as he elsewhere writes (Rom 1), his offspring have exchanged the glory of God for idols. Thus, he warns the Athenians against thinking of God as a created thing (Acts 17:29). The clear implication here is that God goes beyond creation, beyond mere beings, beyond being one being among others. So, as Paul says, “we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man” (Acts 17:29).
In so saying, he indicts a large portion of the Greek philosophical tradition. He even goes so far as to call earlier pursuits of God “times of ignorance” (Acts 17:30). Yet “God overlooked” such times because he now calls all to repent because judgment will come. This judgement has an irrefutable proof, claims Paul, because Jesus rose from the dead (Acts 17:31).
Paul announces to the Greeks who the God was that they sought to know. In their seeking, they created idols or gods after the mode of created things. Instead, God exists after an entirely different order—being the Creator of all.
Any creation, whether a god of the Greeks or fish in the sea, has as its source and sustainer, the God of the Bible. In God, we live, breathe, and have our being. And this happens at the moment when we come into being and continues to sustain us forever. In this sense, God is not far from anyone because he at all times gives us life.
Paul’s God does not live within the geographical boundaries of Israel nor within the closed-off history of a book. Pointedly, that book (the Old Testament) presents God as the God of the universe, the creator of heaven and earth, as Paul here affirms (Acts 17:24).
Now, Paul affirms economically what we can discern and conceive of more fully. As the creator and underlying logical cause of all things, all things hold together through God’s sustaining power (Col 1:17). So everything has a secondary cause—a coffee may potentially be cold but that actually happens when cool air acts upon the coffee.
In the end, any state of a cup of coffee depends on many things. Coffee requires heat to warm itself via energy. It needs a cup to hold it together. It usually lies on a table, which lies on the ground, which lies upon the earth, which exists in a solar system, which has an order and movement particularly suited for earth to have life and, well, for coffee. [I promise this is not a long-form advertisement for coffee!]. Even at a cellular level, so many things need to happen for the simple fact that coffee exists at all—at one time and one moment.
I am not here talking about tracing causes back in time, as if the universe was a mechanism whose movements can be perfectly traced. I am making the much more immediate point that anything that exists at all right now must needs have a mass of causes that sustain that things existence.
But for anything to have an infinite logical mass of causes would never have any cause that itself is not caused; so an infinite regress of causes would occur; and no ground of causation would sustain life at any moment. But that’s impossible. So some uncaused thing holds together existence at base during any given moment.
We know that this has to be God. Paul makes the point that it is. And we know that for various other reasons. Yet my point here is not fill in every blank possible but simply to make the point that: existence is the best evidence that God exists. And not just any God, but a God who does not depend on anything else, sustains all, and exists beyond the created order (being the only cause without contingency, not needing himself any cause to exist).
Scripture makes the point elegantly: the heavens declare the glory of God. They do. That he exists is plain because God has made his invisible attributes known to all. Who he is, well, that is another matter. It was Jesus who made God known to all as the light of the world. And so Paul does not stop at “that God exists,” but he affirms “who God is” and exalts the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I can get behind that.
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