Question: How do I respond to the naturalist’s claim, “unless I can see, touch, smell, hear, and taste God, I will not believe he exists”? I’m afraid if I respond with something like, “how do you know your brain exists?” the answer would be a CAT scan or Xray shows it to exist. Can I prove God exists?
Answer: When people ask this question, they are setting themselves up to reject God. Why? Because they set a standard that cannot be met. No one can tangibly prove that God exists. But even more so, no one can prove that He doesn’t exist. Furthermore, there is evidence of God’s existence and there is sufficient reasoning that He does exist.
We prove the existence of things by our senses, but some things cannot be proven in that way. Can you see truth or touch love? Can you smell peace or hear joy? Can you taste knowledge? Can you see wisdom, touch goodness, smell power, hear justice, or taste patience? The answer to every one of these is, “no.” The existence of these cannot be proven by our senses, and yet we believe all these things exist. In a similar way, belief and faith cannot be seen, touched, smelled, heard, etc.
Now, one might say that many of these things are responses that are generated by something that can be measured and/or observed. An example would be an inability to see or touch thinking, but the brain that produces thinking is able to be seen and verified by using diagnostic equipment. That’s true. The brain is matter and it can be seen. But just as thoughts are not material so also truth, love, joy, peace, knowing, thinking, wisdom, goodness, power, justice, patience, etc, are all immaterial things. They cannot be measured. However, just because they can’t be seen or measured doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
Proof of God?
We know that God is Spirit, so the idea of proving His existence through sight, touch, smell, etc, is no more of a legitimate endeavor than trying to prove the above examples (truth, love, peace, etc). We are bound by the limitations of earthly existence in our time and space dimension. As finite humans, we cannot see, touch, smell, etc an infinite God. But just as we experience truth, love, peace, etc, God has given us a way to know and understand Him. And He has given us a way to experience Him.
Evidence of Two
God required of His people Israel that two witnesses be necessary to prove any matter: “…by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.” (Deu 19:15)
And God has graciously given us two witnesses that testify to who He is, all He has done, and all that He promises to do in the future, as well as revealing how we can have a relationship with God and what our new life in that relationship is. Those two witnesses are God’s Holy Spirit and His Holy Word:
John 15:26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.
John 5:39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.
In addition to the two witnesses that testify of God, creation is a testimony to, and an evidence of, our God’s work. Our world “screams” that there was a benevolent Creator–someone outside of this created world who brought into existence everything.
Denial of God?
There is ample evidence, testimony, and reasoning to come to a conclusion that God is real and that He is who He says He is in the Bible. However, be aware that most skeptics and non-believers will not be satisfied. They demand an absolute proof of God because they are really seeking to justify their belief that He doesn’t exist.
If the Holy Spirit is not working on their hearts, they will not have “ears to hear,” and it becomes very difficult to give answers and reasoning that will be rationally considered. God has even told us that without the Holy Spirit it is impossible to fully understand the truths of the Bible because it is the Holy Spirit Who reveals the truths of the Bible:
1 Cor 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
1 Cor 2:9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
Proof for Non-believers?
We cannot give non-believers the proof they demand. In non-belief, they cannot fully understand biblical truth. But they can understand their sin (although they might try to deny it). While they might reject our answers and reasoning that reveal the God of all creation, we should continue to talk kindly with them and try to turn the conversation to the ultimate question of eternal destiny. Help them to consider that everyone will die. That’s a proven fact they can’t deny. Make it personal and make them consider they will die. The question then becomes, where will they go?
Keep It Simple and Saviour-centered
It’s all about Jesus and turning the lost from darkness to His light.
So first, try to get a non-believer to acknowledge his/her sin. Most people will do so readily, admitting they have lied, stolen, lusted, or broken other commandments.
Remind the non-believer that the soul is eternal and everyone will live eternally…somewhere, based upon the judgment of their sins. Perhaps begin by posing the question, “If you were to die tonight where would you spend eternity?” Everyone is interested in themselves and will consider things that directly impact them. Ask the question and see how they respond. If they respond “Heaven” or “Hell” ask, why? You will likely get the answer “because I’m a pretty good [or bad] person.” If they claim goodness, give them the law based on the Ten Commandments: Have you ever told a lie, stolen, lusted, etc. (give law to the proud). They must come to an understanding that they are not “good,” no one is (Ro 3:23), before you can share the gospel with them. If they claim to be a bad person, understanding that they have broken God’s law, they are already humbled and ready to hear about God’s saving grace. Remember, grace only flows to the humble. The proud need to be broken before they can receive. The Law is for the hard-hearted and grace is for the broken-hearted.
James 4:6 …God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
When the soil of the heart is prepared, plant the seed.
God does not command us to prove that He exists, so don’t enter into useless arguments with non-believers. They just want to play a game of “mental gymnastics.”
Christ commands us to share the gospel with the lost, so be quick to look for opportunities to turn the conversation from proof of God to NEED of God. Everyone needs God and God WANTS everyone (2 Pet 3:9).
- Do your best to plant gospel seeds: Tell of the love of the Father and His gift of eternal life through His Son Jesus Christ. Tell of Jesus’ life, death, burial, and resurrection. Tell of the grace He offers in the saving of souls and how He desires to save all souls. Help a lost person to understand how he/she can call out to God and be saved. If not ready to do so…
- Trust that the seeds of the gospel will be watered. Pray for the person and pray God will put others in their path to continue to share the grace of salvation God desires to give them. Remember, our job is to plant seeds and water them. By our words, we are to turn them from darkness to the Light, the Lord of the Harvest.
- Praise Jesus who is the Lord of the Harvest. He continues to reap souls for His kingdom. All glory unto Him.
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase… (1 Corinthians 3:6-9)
… how beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! (Ro 10:15)
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