Is God’s Existence Subjective?

posted in: Existence of God | 0

Background

I recently conducted a class on logic and reasoning at a local church. After the class, an attendee approached me to challenge my portrayal of objective truth. During the lesson, I explained the difference between a subjective statement and an objective truth-claim. A subjective statement pertains only to the subject (i.e., the person making the claim) and is based on personal belief, feelings, opinions, etc. An example is the statement, “Chocolate is the best flavor of ice cream.” While this statement may be true to the individual making the claim, it is not universally true for everyone.

In contrast, an objective truth-claim refers to conditions outside the mind of the person. Since objective truth pertains to external reality, it is universally applicable and receives foundational support from facts, not feelings.1  As a result, it is possible to verify an objective truth-claim. For example, the statement, “The earth is round,” is an objective statement. By examining external reality, we can determine if the earth is in fact round, and conclude if the statement is correct (i.e., it accurately describes reality), or if it is false (i.e., it fails to correspond with reality). Since an objective statement pertains to reality, personal belief is irrelevant to the truthfulness of the claim. This concept means that even if someone sincerely believes the earth is flat, it does not change the fact that the earth is actually round. In other words, their subjective belief has no bearing on the objective facts.

Apparently, this attendee took exception with me designating the statement, “God exists,” as an objective truth-claim, and he contested that any beliefs about God and Jesus are not scientifically verifiable. In this article, I will explain why the statement “God exists,” is an objective truth-claim, and show how we can analyze the claim’s validity. In a subsequent article, I will address this attendee’s appeal to scientism, and show why scientific testability is not an epistemological prerequisite (i.e., a requirement for knowledge).2

 

Why God’s Existence is an Objective Truth-Claim

When the Christian uses the term “God,” they are referring to an eternal, supremely powerful, creator of the universe (Genesis 1:1). Either this God is real, or he is merely a product of human imagination. If God does not actually exist, then belief in God does not change the reality of His non-existence. Therefore, the statement, “God exists,” is objective because it pertains to external reality, and subjective opinions about the existence of God have no bearing on God’s actual presence in reality.

 

Verifying the Statement “God Exists”

Since the existence of God is objective, there ought to be evidence of God’s existence in the material universe. It is only reasonable to compare the hypothesis of God with empirical evidence, as it would be completely irrational to believe something exists if there is no evidence of its existence. One compelling proof of God’s existence is the Cosmological Argument.3  The argument is as follows: 4

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

2. The universe began to exist.

3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

This argument is valid and deductive, which means that if the premises are true, then the conclusion follows necessarily. So, what evidence is there to suggest the premises are true? The law of causality (AKA the law of causation) is a fundamental bedrock of scientific inquiry and supports the first premise. Regarding this law, philosopher Bertrand Russell comments, “The law of causation, according to which later events can theoretically be predicted by means of earlier events, has often be held to be a priori, a necessity of thought, a category without which science would not be possible.”5  Moreover, our every-day experience provides support for this premise as well, since we never observe objects arbitrarily popping into existence without a cause.

There are also excellent reasons to believe the second premise is true as well. For instance, the expansion of the universe and the second law of thermodynamics, both preclude an eternal universe, thereby necessitating its beginning. Stephen Hawking, the famous theoretical physicist and cosmologist, affirms the beginning of the cosmos in declaring, “All the evidence seems to indicate, that the universe has not existed forever, but that it had a beginning, about 15 billion years ago.”6  While scientists remain divided on exactly when the universe began, and how or why the universe came into existence, all evidence points to a definite beginning.7

With the premises firmly established, the conclusion follows necessarily, providing a rational basis to believe the universe has a cause. Let’s take this one step further. What can we deduce about the cause of the universe? Since we are referring to the “first-cause,” it must be self-existent (i.e., causeless). Because time, space, and matter came into existence at the “Big Bang,” the cause must be eternal (i.e. timeless), non-spatial (i.e., spaceless), and immaterial. Additionally, the cause must be extremely potent to create the massive Big Bang explosion and to account for the immense energy present throughout the universe. Moreover, the cause must be personal to cause the universe’s beginning. If the necessary conditions for the universe’s beginning were always present, then the universe would have always existed. Since there was a point when the universe did not exist, and another point where the universe began, there would have to be a personal cause. Finally, the order within the universe, the appearance of design, and the presence of information in DNA all indicate the cause must be intelligent.

To summarize, the cause of the universe must be self-existent, eternal, non-spatial, immaterial, powerful, personal, and intelligent. Interestingly, these are the exact words Christians (and other monotheists) use to describe God.

 

Conclusion

The statement, “God exists,” is fundamentally objective, referring to something external to an individual human mind, and existing in reality. As such, the accuracy of the claim can be verified using standard methods of research and reasoning. The Cosmological Argument provides a perfect example of how empirical data, attained through scientific inquiry, can provide a means of verifying such a claim. Moreover, the Cosmological Argument provides evidentiary support for the existence of God, thus proving that belief in God is a rational position.

 

 

Footnotes

  1. Obviously, this contention hinges on the existence of objective truths, inherently denying relativism or subjectivism. For more on this topic, see “Not Relative: An Objective Rebuttal of Subjectivism.”
  2. See “The Abject Failure of Scientism.
  3. This section provides a mere overview of the Kalam Cosmological Argument. For additional details, see “Facing the Facts: The Kalām Cosmological Argument.”
  4. William Lane Craig, “In Defense of the Kalam Cosmological Argument,” Reasonable Faith, accessed August 15, 2016, http://www.reasonablefaith.org/in-defense-of-the-kalam-cosmological-argument.
  5. Bertrand Russell, Our Knowledge of the External World: As a Field for Scientific Method in Philosophy (1914; repr., New York: Routledge, 2002), 235-236.
  6. Stephen Hawking, “The Beginning of Time,” The Official Website of Stephen Hawking, accessed December 03, 2015, http://www.hawking.org.uk/the-beginning-of-time.html.
  7. Dr. Wollack assess the age of the universe to be approximately 13.77 billion years. While his estimate is slightly different from Dr. Hawking’s estimate, both agree on the finite age of the cosmos; see Edward J. Wollack, “Foundations of Big Bang Cosmology,” The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, accessed December 03, 2015, http://map.gsfc.nasa.gov/universe/bb_concepts.html.

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