Answer the question “Is there a God?” in around 775 words? Is this perhaps the easiest assignment Tabletalk has ever commissioned, since the answer is so clear? There are no consistent atheists, only people hiding from God. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Ps. 19:1). God is the inescapable given who undergirds all things.
Or, is this the hardest assignment Tabletalk has ever commissioned? A comprehensive answer might fill an entire library. What follows, then, is only a stray fragment from one chapter in a book in that library.
1. God the Creator is the only solution to Gottfried Leibniz’s and Martin Heidegger’s ultimate riddle: “Why is there something there, and not nothing?”
Ex nihilo nihil fit—“Nothing comes from nothing.” Let us note that nothing is not a “pre-something”; it is not “something reduced to a minimum.” Nothing is NO thing, no THING. Nothing—a concept impossible for the mind to comprehend precisely because nothing lacks “reality” in the first place. To transform René Descartes’ famous dictum Cogito, ergo sum (I think, therefore I am) we can say, Quod cogito, non cogito de nihilo (Because I am, I cannot conceive of nothing). That leads to another Descartes-esque thought: Quod cogito, ergo non possibile Deus non est (Because I think, therefore it is impossible that God does not exist). The cosmos, my existence, and my ability to reason all depend on the fact that life did not and could not come from nothing, but requires a reasonable and reasoning origin. The contrary (time + chance = reality) is impossible. Neither time nor chance is a pre-cosmic phenomenon.
The nonbeliever of necessity must draw on, borrow from, indeed intellectually steal from, a biblical foundation.
2. This God must be the biblical God, for two reasons. The first is that only such a God adequately grounds the physical coherence of the cosmos as we know it. Second, His existence is the only coherent basis, whether acknowledged or otherwise, for rational thought and communication. Consequently, the nonbeliever of necessity must draw on, borrow from, indeed intellectually steal from a biblical foundation in order to think coherently and to live sanely. Thus, the secular humanist who argues that there are no ultimates must borrow from biblical premises in order to assess anything as in itself right or wrong.
I have recently tried a simple but unnerving experiment, directing my mind to think its way into the assumption that there is no God, and then to explore the implications. I strongly discourage performing this mind experiment. It leads inexorably to a dark place, a mental abyss where nothing in life makes sense, indeed, where there is no possibility of ultimate “sense.” Here, all that we think of as good, true, rational, intelligible, and beautiful has no substructure to give these concepts coherence. Thus, the nature of everything I am and experience becomes radically deconstructed and disconnected from my consciousness of them. That “consciousness” that seems intelligible is then an unjustifiable fabrication of my own imagination. And then that imagination ceases to have coherence in itself. In essence, then, my highly complex consciousness becomes merely an inexplicable series of intricate chemical reactions grounded in no rationality and having no inherent meaning. “Meaning” itself in any genuinely transcendent sense is itself a meaningless concept.
As experimenters in the pilgrimage of consistent atheism, we will then conclude that it is the “atheists” who are driven to despair, as they yield to the unbearable conclusions of their premises, who are the only consistent atheistic thinkers with the courage of their convictions. Those who calmly claim to be atheists are unmasked as in fact refusing the conclusion of their professed convictions, repressing what they know deep down to be true (that God is)—the very point Paul makes in Romans 1:18–25.
The novelist Martin Amis recounted a question that the Russian writer Yevgeni Yevtushenko asked Sir Kingsley Amis: “Is it true that you are an atheist?” Amis replied, “Yes. But it’s more than that. You see, I hate Him.” Far from being able to deny the existence of God, he confessed both God’s existence and his own antagonism toward Him.
Amis was not alone. Neither a knight of the Realm, nor any of us, can escape being the imago Dei (however mutilated). We can therefore never deny the Deus of whom we are the imago. For God has placed a burden on us: “He has put eternity into a man’s heart” (Eccl. 3:11). As Augustine said, our hearts are restless until we find our rest in Him.
Why then does the Bible not ask the question, “Is there a God?” Because its first sentence answers it: “In the beginning, God. . . .”
Dr. Sinclair B. Ferguson is a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow and Chancellor’s Professor of Systematic Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary. He is author of numerous books, including Maturity.