You believe that there is one God? You do well. The demons also believe, and tremble. – James 2:19
I’m just finishing a college class in philosophy of religion. Our professor guided us through many of the philosophical arguments for and against the existence of God, and in our last class, we talked about a more basic question. How much does all of this matter? Do we need a logical proof of God’s existence in order to believe in God?
A philosophical position that has grown more popular is the idea that our belief in God is justified not by logical proof, but by religious experience – in the same way everyone’s belief in the world around us is justified by experience. The only difference is that while everyone experiences the world around us, only some people have religious experiences (like sensing God’s presence, conversing with God in prayer, etc.). This explains why everyone believes in the world, but only some people believe in God.
If there were a logical proof of God’s existence that no one could reject, what kind of belief in God would it lead to? Everyone would have to say, “Yes, God exists.” But does that mean everyone would become religious believers? Of course not. There is an important difference between believing a fact about God, and believing in God as a person. If there were a proof that no one could ignore, then everyone would believe that fact: “God exists.” But other facts, such as the evil and suffering in the world, could still cause that person to distance themselves from God.
I, on the other hand, don’t respond in that way because I have a different kind of belief: I trust God, I believe God. This is not a kind of belief that can be inspired by logical arguments. It is a product of my relationship with a person whom I know: God. So even when terrible things happen, I remain committed to God because I believe I know Him, and He’s not the kind of person who will let those things happen for no good reason. I trust Him.
Logical arguments may or may not help me to know and believe things about God. Regardless of that, I still know and believe Him.