Everyone has faith – from the irrational religious zealot to the fervent philosopher and the meticulous scientist. We all believe in something and thus we behave in line with these beliefs. Therefore, the underlying question, in this case, is not whether we have faith, but the truth behind the things believed. However, the majority of believers do not question or evaluate the basis of their faith or beliefs. At birth, we are all propelled into a cold, unfamiliar, and unusual place in terms of gender, race, socioeconomic status, time period, or geographical location with predominant beliefs that may have existed for many generations. Consequently, based on where we are born, we flow with the dominant societal beliefs.
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Currently, societies advance religious pluralism, which means that we are to look at each other’s faith and conclude that it does not matter as long as we are sincere and true to ourselves. However, arguing that God exists or there are universal absolutes may seem black and white upon the first examination, but further inspection reveals that the majority of people hold beliefs somewhere between the two sides. This grey area of thought is what gave rise to the discipline of philosophy. People such as Plato, John Locke, and Niccolo Machiavelli devoted the majority of their lives grappling with what it meant to be human and how we should interact with others, nature, and God. Upon analyzing ideas of major thinkers, I believe there is substantial evidence to believe in God, why humans exist and die, and how human history is vital for everyone to understand for both knowledge and salvation.
Philosophical Approach to Faith
Most believers today are hesitant to make distinctions between ideas or individuals because it sounds offensive as it may appear socially inappropriate, undemocratic, exclusionary, or even arrogant. As such, people are unwilling to express personal convictions unless they appear disagreeable or unpopular. Many believe that the theory of evolution is sacrosanct because they were taught so, and thus they have no reason to question such ideology. This same mindset is collectively shared among most creationists. However, one cannot know something genuinely, without researching the topic. Besides, to be truly unbiased, opposing views must be examined. When discussing the topic of creation and evolution, many creationists approach the situation as an attempt to convert someone to their faith. The majority of other believers use the same approach when defending their faith. However, proving the existence of God or gods and showing the rightness of your beliefs or religion are two different issues. While evidence may be seen as proof of a creator, it does not reveal his identity.
The period of the Enlightenment (or the Age of Reason) was a philosophical movement that occurred between the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, and it drastically changed the mindsets and ideas of the Western society. Previously, these societies primarily held fundamental Christian beliefs that there was a personal God, that He created the world in six literal days, and that there was a universal flood. Even though some individuals within the Western context opposed one or all of the previously mentioned points, society as a whole did not drift from this understanding until the introduction of deism, and ultimately naturalism.
Naturalism and Evolution
The idea of naturalism holds that only natural laws and forces govern the world, as opposed to the claim of the existence of a supernatural or a Supreme Being. In other words, the proponents of this philosophy do not believe in the existence of God or gods, and thus they are atheists. As such, naturalists rely on scientific evidence to explain the origin of the world, which leads to the concept of evolution. During the Age of Reason, the scientific revolution began, and it paved the way for the emergence of many beliefs held today. The theory of evolution is based on the idea that life was derived from a common ancestor and all species alive today are a result of countless generations enduring many different environments and predation, thus causing diversity in organisms among the various species. The emergence and the ultimate substantializing of evolution as a valid theory of origins formed the basis for many people to start negating the existence of God. Consequently, the theory of evolution became a reasonable substitute for creation. As stated earlier, the theory of evolution emerged at the infancy of modern science and consequentially much has been learned in all respective fields since that time.
In scientific terms, mathematics forms the basis for physics, which in turn underlines the foundation of chemistry. Consequently, chemistry forms the foundation of biochemistry upon which biology is hinged. The theory of evolution is very logical and pliable on a biological level, but it greatly falters when examined using the principles of chemistry. The theory states that the earth’s original atmosphere did not have free oxygen. Apparently, the useable oxygen we have today was eventually photosynthesized from primitive autotrophs (cyanobacteria) very early into the earth’s history.
Life is thought to have originated by spontaneous generation (Harris 62). However, the chemical reaction of photosynthesis is completely non-spontaneous. Though this detail sounds minor and irrelevant, it means that absolutely under no natural circumstances could the first life begin without irreducibly complex anatomy already in place before it became alive. Though it seems that this could have happened by chance, components of each part of the anatomy require vastly different environments to be produced and would be destroyed if placed in any other. For example, the simple and very necessary macromolecules of lipids and nucleic acids are hydrophobic and hydrophilic, respectively, thus making it impossible for either of the two to be in any form of contact with each other for utilization by an evolving organism.
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Arguably the only guarantee one is given after birth is that they will die. Death is a universal experience known by everyone, and it is the only thing that we can all agree it will happen to all of us, sooner or later. Naturalists believe that when someone dies they return to the earth while many of the other faiths believe in some sort of life after death, whether through reincarnation, nirvana, or heaven. No one can tell for certain what will happen to someone after death. According to Plato, the soul is immortal, and thus it cannot be destroyed whether by external or internal evil (117). Plato’s “principal proofs of the immortality of the soul are based on the soul’s uncomplicated form, its immateriality and its analogy to the eternal ideas and to truth, which is known through the soul” (Marias 54). Plato also believed that reality could be divided into two parts – the physical world and the ideal world. Additionally, he believed that life and death complemented each other and the idea of incarnation made the two events cyclic.
A modern way of thinking is that humans exist for no other reason than natural cause and effect – that there is no God and no meaning of life. However, the concept of naturalism has several limitations, which calls for a better explanation of the origin of the world and human beings. As mentioned earlier, naturalism is hinged on the premise of natural science. The problem with this argument is that while natural science does not need to justify its origin or starting point, naturalism is a philosophy, and thus it must justify the inherent assumptions in this scientific premise. If naturalism cannot justify the scientific assumptions of natural science, it is then presumed to be based on effronteries. Unfortunately, naturalism does not address the ontological assertions and assumptions in natural science.
Therefore, naturalists defy the rules of philosophy, but they hold on to this belief, even with the glaring gaps. However, this way of thinking could be explained using Niccolo Machiavelli. In the Prince, Machiavelli encourages leaders to ignore moral and religious values. He says, “Hence a prince who wants to keep his authority must learn how not to be good, and use that knowledge, or refrain from using it, as necessity requires” (Machiavelli 36). In other words, a prince may pretend to be religious and be an unbeliever at the same time. However, Machiavelli believed that worldly things “are so governed by God that moral and religious sins are punished in this world” (Tarcov 574), based on his explanation as to why Italy was ruined. In this context, Machiavelli knows that God exists, but he encourages princes not to care about it. Similarly, naturalism has gaps that point to the existence of God, but naturalists tend to ignore the evidence about the inherent errors of their beliefs. As such, if naturalism is wrong, it means that a better philosophy can explain the origins of the universe and human beings. Theism offers a better understanding of cosmos as discussed in the next section.
Theism is the belief that God or gods exist as the Supreme Being or other deities. Koperski posits, “God has determined the nature of every creature and the laws of nature themselves” (18). This section will be based on Christian theism, as a better replacement of naturalism in explaining the origin of the universe and humans. Examining what it means to be human begins with the same foundation and data, but it derives vastly different outcomes. There are three commonly held beliefs on humans – that we are created in the image of God, that we are merely a product of random causes and effects, and that life is ultimately meaningless, or that they could not care less and no one can definitively prove one of the former statements. Many Christians find it difficult to trust and believe in a loving God when there is so much hatred in the world, and in their mind, they cannot reconcile the two. We are promised persecution if we are followers of Christ. All but one of the twelve apostles died horrible deaths. The early Church was killed off by the Roman government.
Therefore, it becomes difficult for people to believe in the existence of God in the midst of such kind of pain and suffering. However, to understand this issue better, it is important to look at the history of theism. Great writers such as William Shakespeare believed in the existence of a Supreme Being. In one of his masterpiece plays, Hamlet, the protagonist says, “Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter! O God! God! How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable, Seem to me all the uses of this world! Fie on’t! ah fie! ‘tis an unweeded garden” (Shakespeare 15). Clearly, the writer acknowledges the existence of God, and ultimately Hamlet refuses to commit suicide due to his faith in the Almighty. Similarly, in The Book of the City of Ladies, De Pisan agrees that men and women share in God’s essential nature as spiritual beings (6). Apart from these great writers and philosophers, theism, as the most reasonable worldview, could be explained using different arguments.
Theologians and historians use different philosophical proofs to show the existence of God. The cosmological perspective holds that the existence of creation is proof of a creator. This argument is consistent with Biblical texts in Romans 1 and Psalms 8 and 19. This perspective is hinged on the premise that if a thing exists, it must have come from nothing, something else, or it always existed. However, the emergence-from-nothing perspective does not meet the philosophical threshold as explained earlier. Therefore, my existence can only be explained through the existence of something (universe) or someone eternal (God). However, based on the available scientific evidence, the universe is not eternal as its origin can be traced (Koperski 118). This assertion leaves only one option – the existence of an eternal being.
Such Supreme Being must have always existed and He must be the cause of everything that can be seen in the physical world. He must have infinite power and knowledge, failure to which he would be limited, and thus not eternal. These descriptions and characteristics refer to the God of the Bible. However, one question remains – where did God come from? Nevertheless, asking such a question about God is irrational because it confines Him to time, which is a characteristic of a finite world. According to Exodus 3:14, He is – He does not have a beginning or end, and thus his existence must transcend time and space.
However, arguing that God lives is not enough, and thus we must prove His existence either through experience (empiricism) or rationalism (reason). God has revealed Himself to human beings through Jesus Christ – “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (King James Version, John 1:1, 14). Jesus Christ raises other questions because non-Christians claim that He was a historical figure or he never existed in the first place. Nonetheless, Jewish sources, Roman writings, and archeological artifacts all point to Jesus as the son of God. For instance, writing about Nero and the ruin of Rome in 64 A.D., Tacitus (55-117 A.D.) said, “…the persons commonly called Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius” (118). Therefore, the evidence points to the existence of Jesus, as claimed in the Bible, hence the existence of God. The Supreme Being, as the creator of the universe, is eternal and thus He existed before the foundations of the earth were laid down. This assertion explains the finiteness of the cosmos and its origins. The arguments made in this section show that theism is the only reasonable worldview.
All of us, to a certain extent, adhere to some sort of faith, whether it is taken in the classic example of faith in God, or in the more abstract terms as within the theory of evolution. Neither creationists nor evolutionists were there to witness the birth of the universe, and thus we cannot definitively prove which course it chose to pursue – whether each species gave rise out of their kind (Genesis 1:24) or whether the earth was shaped through macroevolution. Different people hold faith that their logic and reason are true to be believed. However, Christian theism offers a reasonable account of the origins of the universe through being created by God Himself.
The available evidence points to the existence of God, and He has revealed Himself to us through Jesus Christ. The glory of Heaven will not be the mansions that Christ will make for us, the gold roads, or the fact that we will never age or grow weary. The true joy of heaven will be the fact that we can dwell with our Creator, as He originally planned. What Satan has so long coveted, and what originally started sin, is what God will give to us at the Second Coming. It is absolute peace to know that wherever you are, no matter what you are facing, you can talk to the One who knows. He sees all of our faults, all of our weaknesses and still loves us, even when we do nothing, but hurt Him.
The Bible. Authorized King James Version, Oxford UP, 1998.
De Pisan, Christine. The Book of the City of Ladies. Penguin, 1999.
Harris, Henry. Things Come to Life: Spontaneous Generation Revisited. Oxford University Press, 2002.
Koperski, Jeffrey. The Physics of Theism: God, Physics, and the Philosophy of Science. Wiley-Blackwell, 2015.
Machiavelli, Niccolo. The Prince. Translated by William Marriott, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014.
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Marias, Julian. History of Philosophy. Translated by Stanley Appelbaum and Clarence Strowbridge. Dover Publications, 1967.
Plato. The Republic, 2002, Web.
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016.
Tacitus. The Annals. Translated by Alfred J. Church and William J. Brodribb, 2018, e-artnow.
Tarcov, Nathan. “Belief and Opinion in Machiavelli’s “Prince”.” The Review of Politics, vol. 75, no. 4, 2013, pp. 573-586.