Answering the Question "Which God exists?"

By Robin Schumacher
Originally posted on Confident Christians

A favorite tactic of various atheists and skeptics who struggle to supply valid rebuttals against the arguments that a creator God exists is to ask the question, "OK, so tell me which god exists? Odin? Thor? Allah? There are countless gods to choose from so why I should I believe in the one you're talking about?"

Putting aside the normal acerbic tone that typically accompanies the question, it's actually a very valid matter to discuss. Is there a reasonable way to determine what kind of supernatural deity or deities really exist?

That Eternal 'Something'

The reason that you and I along with everything else that we know exists is simply because something has always existed. In the end, the believer in God and the atheist are really just arguing over the identity of that "something." Whatever it is, it is eternal (it has always existed) and necessary (if it didn't exist, nothing else would).

Notice that I refer to something vs. somethings. Why can't we have more than one eternal thing (e.g. multiple gods)?

While the explanation can be long and involved, the most succinct way to put it is because all multiplicity implies a prior singularity; all division a preceding unity. Whether you tackle the issue scientifically or philosophically the same conclusion results.

The issue of whether that eternal something is the universe or a supernatural creator won't be discussed here as I have dealt with that debate elsewhere. [1] Instead, the matter at hand is how to determine not if a creator exists, but what kind of creator exists.

Revelations of God

Coming to a knowledge of what kind of deity exists can be accomplished in a couple of different ways. The first is by the deity simply communicating and interacting with its creation. This is called "Special Revelation", with Christians firmly believing that God has done this by personally interacting with certain individuals down through history, delivering a written account of Himself and His deeds in the Bible, and through the incarnation of Jesus Christ whereby God became Man (John 1:1-3, 14). Of course, skeptics point to other supposed special revelations of God that purportedly came to Muhammad and others.

A second way of gaining knowledge about the eternal deity that brought everything into being is through what is commonly called "General Revelation" or "Natural Theology," which bases its understanding of what kind of deity exists on the effects that deity has caused. Regarding this path, the great theologian Thomas Aquinas wrote, "From every effect the existence of its proper cause can be demonstrated...if the effect exists, the cause must pre-exist. Hence the existence of God...can be demonstrated from those of His effects which are known to us." [2]

Make no mistake, this is no god of the gaps that posits Thor for lightening, but rather it is a method that seeks to understand the essence or nature of something based on what it has delivered or caused. As an example, if I don't have love within the nature of my being, I can't produce or give love to anything else.

Using this approach, what do we learn about the deity that caused the existence of everything?

The Familiar God

Looking at all that we know and observe, here are some characteristics of the creator / first cause that are fairly obvious:
• The cause must be supernatural (because it created the natural).
• The cause must be powerful (incredibly).
• The cause must be eternal (or self-existent).
• The cause must be omnipresent (it created space and is not limited by it).
• The cause must be timeless and changeless (because it created time).
• The cause must be immaterial (because it transcends space/physical).
• The cause must be purposeful/personal (defined as "having intent").
• The cause must be necessary (as everything else depends on it).
• The cause must be infinite and singular (as you cannot have two infinites).
• The cause must be diverse yet have unity (as unity and diversity exist everywhere).
• The cause must be intelligent (supremely).
• The cause must be moral (no moral law can be had without a moral law giver).
• The cause must be caring (or no moral laws would have been given).

Taking these observable and discoverable qualities and applying them to the supposed countless gods of various mythologies produces no direct match, with only the God described in the three major Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Islam, Christianity) making the grade. However, applying them to the God as described in the Bible results in the proverbial bull's-eye. The God of the Bible is stated to be:

• Supernatural (Genesis 1:1)
• Powerful (Jeremiah 32:17)
• Eternal (Psalm 90:2)
• Omnipresent (Psalm 139:7)
• Timeless/changeless (Malachi 3:6)
• Immaterial (John 5:24)
• Personal (Genesis 3:9) and purposeful (Jeremiah 29:11)
• Necessary (Colossians 1:17)
• Infinite/singular (Jeremiah 23:24, Deut. 6:4)
• Diverse yet possessing unity (Matthew 28:19)
• Intelligent (Psalm 147:4-5)
• Moral (Daniel 9:14)
• Caring (1 Peter 5:6-7)

Perhaps this is why the Psalmist wrote, "The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard" (Ps. 19:1-3).

The Apostle Paul says the same thing when he writes about those who deny a Creator: "That which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse" (Rom 1:19-20, emphasis added).

How can you see God's "invisible attributes" referenced by Paul? By observing and recognizing the evidence provided by God's general revelation. Does such a thing absolutely prove the God of the Bible? No, but it certainly makes a strong and reasonable case for Him.

Putting agendas and worldviews aside, which truly makes more sense: (1) That an impersonal, non-conscious, meaningless, purposeless, and amoral universe that had its own beginning accidentally created personal, conscious, moral beings who are obsessed with meaning and purpose, or (2) That a personal, conscious, purposeful, intelligent, moral, eternal God created beings in His likeness and established the universe and laws to govern their existence that reflect His character?

With the first option, you have a cause that reflects none of its effects whereas the second option's cause reflects them all.

Maybe that's why Paul said no one has an excuse to say there is no God.

1. For example, "A 30 Second Argument for God".
2. Thomas Aquinas, Summa of the Summa, ed. Peter Kreeft (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1990), pp.58-59.

Image Credit:
Odin in Vahalla; 8th Century, Arede, Sweden
Eagle Totem Poles; photo taken 1914 by Edward S. Curtis
Amun-Ra by Dennis Jarvis; Creative Commons
Statues of the Sri Krishna Temple by Choo Yut Shing; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  |  Other-Religions  |  Witnessing-Evangelism
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Published 5-15-2014