Today I embark on the first part of my promised series “Why I Am Not.” This series was provoked by the question of how I came by my religious beliefs. Why do I believe so strongly in the existence of a God instead of doubting or denying it? Why am I Protestant instead of Roman Catholic? I began to think about these questions and many more and, naturally, my thoughts worked themselves out in writing. Today I want to begin with the broadest question of all and tell why I am not an atheist. My goal is not first to persuade but simply to explain.
My beliefs about the existence and identity of God originated in my childhood. I was born to Christian parents and raised in a Christian home where I was taught the fundamentals of the Christian faith. Nothing is more foundational to Christianity than the existence of a God. As a child I memorized answer four of the Westminster Shorter Catechism which provides a stirring introduction to this God: “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.” There was never a time in my life when I did not acknowledge the existence of a God, and even a God much like this one. What was assumed in my childish heart and mind later took deeper root in my adult heart and mind.
There was never a time I denied the existence of God. Not only that, but there was never a time I even doubted it. Never once have I had disquieting thoughts while lying awake at night; never once have I had intellectual wrestlings with the idea that perhaps God does not exist. That’s not to say I have never interacted with atheists or encountered their claims. I have read the works of many of today’s most prominent atheists: Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens. I’ve watched The God Who Wasn’t There. I know what these people say and why they say it. But not one of their claims has resonated with me. In fact, their claims have only served to deepen my faith. I’ve never doubted God’s existence any more than I’ve doubted my own. That’s simply the truth.
So why am I not atheist? I want to give two answers.
First, according to the Bible, I am not an atheist because God determined I would not be. See, it’s not that I have any spiritual, intellectual, or philosophical inclinations within me that nudge me toward God. Rather, I have all the makings of a very convinced atheist—an inclination away from authority and toward independence, a questioning mind, and a restless spirit. But God chose to reveal himself to me and to draw me to himself. In his own way and for his own purposes he revealed himself, his existence, his goodness, his power, and I responded with faith, with belief. Ultimately, then, I am not an atheist because God showed me himself.
That is the first answer and the second cannot be separated from it: I am not an atheist because of things I believe and decisions I have made. God works through, not apart from, human agency and ability. And in that way I am not an atheist on the basis of evidence I have observed and conclusions I have made.
I see evidence of God in existence. The fundamental question every human needs to answer is this: How is there something instead of nothing? We all need to grapple with the question of existence, with the reality that there is a world, that there is a universe, that there is something. Existence is impossible, or at least so very improbable, that every person must at least consider that perhaps existence owes to one who pre-exists it, one who transcends the trappings of space and time. Try as I might, I simply cannot account for existence in any other way than through the prior existence of a God.
I see evidence of God in design. I see evidence of God in existence, and further evidence in the orderliness of what exists. This universe follows laws and patterns, it behaves in consistent ways. I see no reason to allow or even imagine that something as orderly as this universe came to be without some kind of agency, without an orderly being extending his order into it. When I look at stars and creatures and chromosomes I can’t help but see the fingerprints of God. When I look at the sheer wonder of a blazing sun, of a flower in full bloom, of a human eye, I do not see chance or randomness but design, order, and purpose. Where there is art there is an artist, where there is something there is a someone, and where there is design there is a designer.
I see evidence of God in humanity. When I look at all that exists and all that reflects design, it is clear that one thing, one creature, stands above it all. Human beings transcend everything else in sheer wonder and ability. Only humans ask the great questions about meaning and purpose and what lies beyond. Only humans gasp in awe and wonder. Only humans long for transcendence and acknowledge a transcendent soul, a part of them that cannot be seen or touched or quantified but that is still so real. It seems clear to me that human beings were made to reflect someone or something else, to exist for a higher and bigger purpose. It seems clear to me that humans were made by and for God.
I see evidence of God in the Bible. And then I see evidence of God in a book, in the Bible. I see it in its words, in its wisdom, in its form, in its coherence, in its frankness, in its truthfulness. I have read holy texts from other religions—the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads, the Koran, the Book of Mormon. They are so unsurprising, so unfulfilling, so very human. I have read the Holy Bible and found a book that is so unexpected, so deeply challenging, so entirely other. The Bible is so different from everything else, every other book, every form of human wisdom, that I have to conclude that it came from beyond humans. The Bible displays the mind and heart of God and in that way provides wisdom for this world from beyond this world.
I am not an atheist because I cannot be. Both the evidence and God himself have drawn me away from it. Both the evidence and God himself have led me to declare that God exists and that his Son, Jesus Christ, is the Savior of this world.
I hope you will join me next time as I discuss why I am not Roman Catholic.