In our search for God, where we start will often determine where we end. If you search for God only to show yourself that He is not there, then you will not find Him. If you ask grand theological questions only to show yourself what a spiritual person you are, then you’ll never obtain answers. But if you seek him like a starving man seeks for bread or a thirsting man seeks for water, then the Bible is filled to the brim with promises that you will find Him. Or more correctly, that He will find you.
“Is there evidence that God exists?” This is a question that is asked thousands of times a day and is probably answered just as frequently. However, I think the question itself deserves a bit of attention. Too often, Christian apologists rush to debate the evidence for God’s existence without considering the question that prompted the discussion in the first place. In this essay, I’d like to very briefly consider this question and ask what it actually means. If we don’t understand the question, there is not much hope of us answering it effectively. And if we don’t ask the right questions, the answers provided will do us little good.
Let me consider four different ways in which we can ask the question: “is there evidence that God exists?”
First, we can ask the question “is there evidence that God exists?” in a purely rhetorical sense. Asked in this way, the question is actually an assertion that there is no evidence for God. But to make an assertion is to renounce skepticism, at least with regards to the issue of evidence. In that case, why ask a question at all? I would suggest that it is far better to make the decidedly indicative statement “There is no evidence for God” than to risk giving a false impression of real doubt.
Second, we could ask the same question but mean far more than what is explicitly stated. When we ask whether there is evidence for God’s existence, we might actually be saying “Can you compel me to believe in God’s existence?” If this is the real question, then the answer is no. Or, more correctly, the answer is “I hope not.” I am not sure that anything short of physical violence really counts as “compulsion.” And if that’s the case, then I doubt any Christian apologist in the world desires to “compel” belief in God in this sense. What most skeptics mean when they talk about compulsion is probably something more along the lines of “Can you provide evidence so convincing that any rational person would be incapable of rejecting it?”
Here again, the answer is no because of the issue of presuppositions. Every one of us has presuppositions that are held logically prior to any evidence. For instance, if I presuppose that the natural world is all that exists, then I can be strictly rational and logical and yet will be completely unable to recognize evidence for the super-natural. For a strict naturalist, even the most wildly improbable event can be met -quite calmly and rationally- with the comment “There must be a natural explanation for this.” I would not dismiss such a person as “irrational”; yet their presuppositions will prevent them from considering certain types of evidence or even recognizing that certain types of evidence exist at all.