Of mermaids and God

165919_5884Awhile back I was amused to see that the BBC had a news story entitled, No evidence of mermaids, say US government. According to the article, a broadcast on mermaids, which was a work of fiction, was mistaken as a documentary. This led to people questioning if mermaids actually existed, and the National Ocean Service stating, “No evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found.” While mermaids have been a part of mythology across the centuries and in various cultures, they are nothing more than characters in ancient stories.

Of Mermaids and God

It hardly seems newsworthy to point out that there is no evidence of “aquatic humanoids.” Obviously they’re a work of fiction, a myth! Yet the more I thought about it the more I realized that this is the same way many people approach God’s existence – it’s outrageous. I can almost see an article saying, “No evidence of a Supernatural Being has ever been found.” He’s a myth that’s been passed down through the centuries. He’s just a character in an ancient story.

But is this the case? Is there “no evidence of God?” Is the belief in God similar to the belief in a mythical aquatic humanoid?

Is There Evidence for God? Looking for the Clues

This question of God’s existence is critical for the Christian faith. If God does not exist, than Jesus was not God. And if Jesus was not God, then everything Christians believe about him, humanity, and the world is a lie. In the words of Tim Keller, How can we believe in Christianity if we don’t even know whether God exists?[1] Unlike the question about Mermaids, this is no laughing matter.

For all the assertions today that God does not exist, there is good evidence that says otherwise. There are strong clues, or “divine fingerprints,” which lead on to his existence[2] There are reasons to believe. Alister McGrath has said, “It can be affirmed with complete sincerity that belief in God is eminently reasonable and makes more sense of what we see in the world, discern in history, and experience in our lives than its alternatives.”[3] What are these clues? McGrath helpfully summarizes eight of those clues for us.[4]

Clue #1: The origins of the universe. As science has progressed it has become increasingly clear that the universe had a beginning. This is commonly called the Big Bang theory. Whatever one believes about this theory, the scientific consensus that the universe had a beginning fits well with the Christian belief in God. Something had to cause the Big Bang to happen. Couldn’t that cause be God?

Clue #2: A universe designed for life. The “fine-tuning” of the universe recognizes that conditions were just right for intelligent life to occur. McGrath notes,

Nature’s fundamental constants turn out to have been fine-tuned to reassuringly life-friendly values. The existence of carbon-based life on earth depends upon a delicate balance of physical and cosmological forces and parameters. Were any of these quantities slightly altered, balance would have been destroyed and life would not have come into existence.[5]

This fine-tuning is what one would expect to see if God exists and is the Creator of the universe and life.

Clue #3: The structure of the physical world. There is an order and structure to our world and universe that we are able to discern, without which science would not be possible. Where does this order come from and how are we able to discern it? If God exists, then it’s rational to believe that he would create a universe with structure and enable us to learn and discover that structure.

Clue #4: A longing for justice. While morality is often seen as subjective in our culture, there are still objective morals we all hold to. We all believe murder is wrong. We all get upset when we someone lies to us, or when someone steals from us. Where does this objective morality come from? Can it be sustained without a Moral Law Giver? “For Christians, God alone offers an objective foundation for moral values, which is not subject to the whims of the powerful or the changing moods of public opinion.”[6]

Clue #5: Desire. This clue looks at the longings of every human heart as a clue for God’s existence. In all of us there is a desire and deep longing for something we do not have and can never obtain on our own. The Christian belief in God argues that this deep sense of yearning for something transcendent is ultimately grounded in the fact that we are created to fellowship with God, and will not be fulfilled until we do so.[7]

Clue #6: Beauty. There is great beauty in the natural world. Whether it is a sunset that paints the sky in hues of pink, orange, and purple, the majesty of mountains, or the delicacy of a flower, we daily catch glimpses of beauty. This beauty is a clue, a signpost, to the greater beauty of God. It points us to him.

Clue #7: Relationality. Human beings have a fundamental need for relationships with each other. Our deep longing for love indicates that we have been hardwired to love and be loved. The Bible consistently portrays God as a Person who created humanity in his likeness to have a relationship with him. Our deep longing to know and be known is a clue that God created us with this longing for the intended purpose of knowing him.

Clue #8: Eternity. There is a deep intuition in us that life does not end at death. Many people, no matter their religious faith, believe in an afterlife. It’s a life they hope is better than the one they are presently experiencing. While this could be passed off as wishful thinking, couldn’t it also be a clue to reality? As McGrath puts it, Maybe God has planted the idea of eternity in our hearts as a clue to the true meaning of the universe. Maybe we are meant to think such thoughts and experience such longings because that’s the way God created us.[8]

These clues in and of themselves prove nothing. They cannot prove that God exists in the same way we can prove a mathematical equation. Yet taken together they present a very strong case that there is evidence for God’s existence.

Myth became Fact

While there are clues that point to God’s existence many still believe he is a work of mythology, similar to mermaids; the similarities between pagan myths and the biblical account of God show that the Christian belief in God is simply part of the larger ancient, and fictitious, superstitions of the ancient world.  C.S. Lewis was familiar with this line of reasoning. Yet he pointed out that perhaps there were similarities because Christianity was the true myth that all other myths pointed to. He observes,

The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact. The old myth of the Dying God, without ceasing to be myth, comes down from heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history. It happens – at a particular date, in a particular place, followed by definable historical consequences.[9]

There is no evidence for mermaids, but there is evidence for God’s existence. There are clues in the world around us – and within our own hearts and souls – that point to him. Far from being a fantastical creature in an ancient myth, he is the True Myth that gives meaning to every story, including our own.

[1] Tim Keller, The Reason for God, chapter 8
[2] Ibid
[3] Alister McGrath, Mere Apologetics, chapter 6
[4][4] Ibid
[5] Ibid, p. 98
[6] Ibid, p. 105
[7] Ibid, p. 109
[8] Ibid, p. 120
[9] C.S. Lewis, Myth Became Fact,” in God in the Dock, p. 66