Q: What is God?
A: God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.
Over the past few months we’ve talked about the attributes of God. Yet when we attribute something to God (whether it be infinitude, eternality, etc.) we presuppose the most fundamental attribute of God: He has being. He is. He exists.
The Scriptures do not make any arguments for the existence of God. When we turn to the first page of Holy Scripture, we see that His existence is assumed: “In the beginning, God created…” (Gen. 1:1). It is a presupposition of Scripture that God exists, and, indeed, Scripture teaches that God has revealed Himself to everyone. Even the most ardent atheist knows God exists. Romans 1:18-21 teaches us that God has been “clearly perceived” through the created order. However, people “suppress the truth” by unrighteousness. Therefore, when judgment comes, when God manifests Himself, no man can say, “You can’t judge me, God! I didn’t know you existed! You should have revealed Yourself to me, and I would have believed in You!” Paul says, “they are without excuse.” A denial of God’s existence, a denial of His being, is not, therefore, a matter of ignorance. Denying God’s existence is a matter of morality.
The 17th century French philosopher Blaise Pascal touches on this truth in what is known as “Pascal’s Wager” (see picture). In this argument for why we should believe in God, Pascal argues that it is statistically wiser to believe in God than to disbelieve in God. If we believe in God, and He doesn’t exist, nothing will happen to us. As a believer, if you are wrong about God’s existence, it really doesn’t matter in the end; if you’re right, the glories of heaven are yours. For the unbeliever, if you are right, it doesn’t matter in the end; but if you’re wrong about God’s existence, God’s wrath in hell awaits you. Statistically speaking, the believer potentially has nothing to lose and everything to gain, but the unbeliever potentially has nothing to gain and everything to lose. Pascal concludes that it is wiser, therefore, to believe in God.
Many have found Pascal’s argument uncompelling, but Pascal is trying to prove a point about the unbeliever rather than to win people to faith. He’s showing us that despite the probability, despite the logic, people will nonetheless deny God’s existence. Denying God’s existence is not a matter of numbers or probability or logic; it’s a moral problem. Atheism is an active, willing suppression of the truth that they already know: that God exists; He is; He has being. Numbers and probability point us to the fact that it might be wise to believe in God, but those who deny God ignore the numbers, probability, or evidence and pursue atheism as rebellion. Denying God’s existence is a sin problem, not a problem of ignorance.
In the coming newsletters, I want to slow our trek through Westminster Shorter Catechism Q.4 to explore more about the being and existence of God so that we ourselves can be encouraged by the truth of His existence and so that we might be better “prepared to make a defense” (1 Peter 3:15) to those who may deny God’s existence.