A depressingly common objection to evidence that God exists queries:
Which god? Yahweh? Allah? Thor? Wotan? Zeus? Isis? Osiris? Loki? Odin? Mithra? Lolth? Aphrodite? Poseidon? Cronos? Horus? Beddru? Krishna? Zarathustra? Baal? Dagon? Dionysus? Enki? Gaia? Helios? Hermes? Marduk? Ra? Seti? Vishnu? Shiva? Xenu? Akuma? Raiden? Gekka? Bumba? Eshu? Jupiter? Romulus? Ilia? Venus? Abaangui? Ewah? Imhotep? Periboriwa? Dagda? Ishtar? Baldur? Tyr? Quetzalcoatl? Ixchel? Qi-Lin? Dievas? Adonis? Xanthus? Kali? Akka? Anubis? Sif? Mercury? Juno? Brahma? Frith? Eric Clapton? Or one of tens of thousands of others?
Perhaps the atheist is suggesting that evidence for God’s existence is irrelevant, since it doesn’t give us much information on who God is or if he has communicated with us? That would be a very strange position to take. We don’t need to focus on exactly what God is like before discussing whether there is in fact an intelligent creator and designer of the universe. It would be like a detective saying he wasn’t interested in whether a person was murdered and instead just focussing on what kind of person the potential murderer might be.
As it happens, I think that that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone to murder President Kennedy. Evidence which unequivocally demonstrated that Oswald could not have acted alone would be of monumental significance – especially if the evidence showed that significant resources had been expended to kill the President. The conspiracy theorists would have been proved correct. It would not matter that we did not yet know the exact identity of the conspirators. We would know that we needed to put much more effort into discovering their identity and in understanding one of the most significant events of the Twentieth Century.
Similarly, it is an extraordinary event in a person’s life if she becomes convinced of the truth of monotheism. She has gained a deeper insight into the nature of life, the universe and everything, and so will also be motivated to understand more about the identity of the creator. And establishing the identity of the creator could be much easier than the sceptic might think. The gods of polytheism can be immediately dismissed. Sceptics tend to get their understanding of polytheism from “The Clash of the Titans”; they tend to view it as proposing numerous supernatural being who created and control the world.
Now, even if this was the case, polytheism could be rejected a less simple theory than monotheism, because it posits many causes when one will suffice. These gods seem too contingent to explain the existence of the universe. Nor could they explain why one set of moral standards exists rather than many – if the gods have conflicting wills and emotions there is no way to establish which gods commandments are obligatory. However, we are critiquing a crude Hollywood caricature of ancient polytheism, which was a radically different world-view from monotheism. Polytheists tended to identify the gods with aspects of nature: they were immanent within the world. Monotheists insist that any God worthy of worship would completely transcend nature.
If God would be worthy of worship, we can get a handle on establishing his identity. A God of limitless power and knowledge would not suffer limitations. Not suffering limitations, God would be perfectly good – and it would not be at all surprising if a God of limitless goodness would want to reach out to persons he has created. In fact, a God worthy of worship would want to challenge us morally and existentially and transform us completely. A perfect God worthy of worship would not be in the business of providing us with some interesting facts about metaphysics or thermodynamics. A God worthy of worship would surely seek to challenge us, transform us, and lead us into a deeper relationship with himself and others. So a revelation from God should be morally and personally challenging.
The world is not as it should be; morally we are not as we ought to be. It seems that we are in need of rescue. A morally perfect being would not be uninterested in our plight. Any message from God should help us to understand our situation, point out how we need to change and then offer us a measure of hope. A revelation from God should also stretch and deepen our moral knowledge, then strengthen our moral commitments. God’s foolishness would be wiser than our wisdom- even the wisdom of physicists. If there is a God, it would seem likely that we would have obligations to him and to other people that we would not know about if he did not reveal them. It would also seem entirely reasonable that God might have priorities and values that differ from ours. We might also learn that we have failed to meet certain obligations or failed to value the right things.
Hebrews 1v1-2 makes it clear that the Christian message centres on Jesus: “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times in various ways but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” Certainly, his life and death exemplify sacrificial love; his challenge to repent, trust him, accept God’s forgiveness, love God completely and to serve others with all our hearts seems to be the sort of message that God would reveal. In fact, when understood completely it is difficult to reject. We can feel its force directly on our consciences; we can feel the existential challenge directly. And the gospel of Jesus Christ and his kingdom makes any religion which merely asks us to submit to God’s commands seem positively irrational.
But there is evidence to back up this message: Christianity depends on history. If Jesus did not call us into God’s kingdom, if he did not die on a Cross and if he did not rise from the dead, then the Christian revelation is false. Therefore can look for evidence which can undermine, and evidence which would confirm, the truth of the Christian revelation. So the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ provides powerful, compelling evidence for a powerful message. Which God should we believe in? We should believe in the Father, the Holy Spirit and the Son of God who loved us, and gave himself for us.