Have you ever tried to prove the existence of God to someone? Here is what the Apostle Paul says about that.
Romans 1:18-23 New King James Version (NKJV)
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who [a]suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is [b]manifest [c]in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and [d]Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like [e]corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
Consider the definition of self-evident.
Definition of self-evident
: evident without proof or reasoning
Now consider the definition of axiom.
Definition of axiom
1 : a statement accepted as true as the basis for argument or inference : postulate sense 1 one of the axioms of the theory of evolution
2 : an established rule or principle or a self-evident truth cites the axiom “no one gives what he does not have”
3 : a maxim widely accepted on its intrinsic merit the axioms of wisdom
What is axiomatic is self-evident.
Did You Know?
In mathematics or logic, an axiom is an unprovable rule or first principle accepted as true because it is self-evident or particularly useful. “Nothing can both be and not be at the same time and in the same respect” is an example of an axiom. The term is often used interchangeably with postulate, though the latter term is sometimes reserved for mathematical applications (such as the postulates of Euclidean geometry). It should be contrasted with a theorem, which requires a rigorous proof.
The point is that there are some things we accept as true just because they are true. Is this contrary to “science”? No. What happened when science began to change the way we prove things.
“Galileo actively argued for a bold new way of knowing, openly insisting that what mattered was not what the authorities… said was true but what anyone with the right tools could show was true. As no one before him had, he made the case for modern science — for finding truth together through the quest for facts.” (from here)
Instead of believing what the “authorities” told us to believe, we demanded proof. That sounds good, but science depends upon mathematics and mathematics starts with, or depends upon, certain axioms or postulates being true. Consider Postulates and Theorems (cliffsnotes.com) which lists mathematical postulates used in Geometry. These postulates or axioms are assumed true, not proven true. What is proven in Geometry depends upon the postulates being true.
So how do we know something is self-evident or axiomatic? Keep in mind were are not talking about a mere assumption or presupposition. Because we are being intentional, we are trying to avoid being illogical, that is, avoid a logical fallacy, an Appeal to Self-evident Truth (logicallyfallacious.com). Therefore, we debate and test what seems self-evident. Consider some common examples of things people believe true they cannot prove.
- In the Declaration of Independence, the Founding Fathers asserted the following.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
- How do advocates for the Theory of Evolution prove their theory? They claim the preponderance of the “evidence” proves the theory. In other words, because there is so much data that fits the model the truth of the hypothesis is self-evident (see What is Darwin’s Theory of Evolution? (livescience.com) and 15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense (scientificamerican.com)).
- How do advocates for manmade Climate Change (AKA Global Warming) prove their theory. They claim the preponderance of the “evidence” proves the theory. In other words, it is a self-evident truth (see Climate change: How do we know? (climate.nasa.gov) and The Most Powerful Evidence Climate Scientists Have of Global Warming (insideclimatenews.org)).
- In the Declaration of Independence, the Founding Fathers asserted the following.
What does showing something is true involve? Depends. Usually, we like to use the scientific method. The scientific method involves a methodical process designed to model cause and effect relationships. That is, we gather data and propose a hypothesis about what is going on. Then we try to do an experiment that demonstrates our hypothesis (or model) is correct.
The first of those three examples requires a philosophical conclusion. The second two involve science. These require proof according to the scientific method. What is the problem with the scientific method? We often don’t have the tools to necessary to gather data and conduct an experiment that “proves” what we want to prove, our hypothesis.
Do we have unalienable Rights? That depends upon what we believe about God. Does God even exist? How do we apply the scientific method to God?
The other two questions more clearly suggest the need for scientific proof. Why should we assume mankind evolved from some odd molecules in a primordial soup? Why should we assume manmade Global Warming a real threat?
Let’s look at another definition of axiom.
Axioms are not self-evident truths in any sort of rational system, they are unprovable assumptions whose truth or falsehood should always be mentally prefaced with an implicit “If we assume that…”. Remembering that ultimately “assume” can make an ass out of u and me, as my wife (a physician, which is a very empirical and untrusting profession) is wont to say. They are really just assertions or propositions to which we give a special primal status and exempt from the necessity of independent proof. (from here)
If we cannot prove God’s existence, why does Apostle Paul insist we are without excuse if we suppress the truth in unrighteousness that God exists? Why should we say it is self-evident that God exist? How do we know God exists? The answer involves faith, but the Bible asks us to rest our faith upon evidence.
Psalm 19:1-4 New King James Version (NKJV)
The heavens above us, all by themselves, tell us that the Creator must exist. Life on earth, the beauty of our planet, amplifies the truth of what we perceive in the sky. Consider how gotquestions.org answers the question.
Question: “Does God exist? Is there evidence for the existence of God?”
Answer: The existence of God cannot be proved or disproved. The Bible says that we must accept by faith the fact that God exists: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). If God so desired, He could simply appear and prove to the whole world that He exists. But if He did that, there would be no need for faith. “Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’” (John 20:29). (from here)
Thus, it may be self-evident that God exists, but the fact is we don’t believe anything until we have tested that belief. That is, we develop faith in our beliefs by testing our beliefs. When our beliefs pass a test, our faith increases. This in essence is not much difference than what we do with a mathematical axiom or postulate.
Psalm 34:8 New King James Version (NKJV)
8 Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
Consider reading some of the references below. Then ask yourself these questions. Does it make sense to assume God exist? Should I test this axiom by living as if God exists?
- Don Stewart :: Does the Bible Attempt to Prove That God Exists? (blueletterbible.org)
- 1. Evidence For God’s Existence (bible.org)
- Does God exist? (https://www.gotquestions.org/Does-God-exist.html)
- What Does the Bible Say About God? (https://www.christianbiblereference.org/faq_God.htm)
- Appeal to Self-evident Truth (logicallyfallacious.com)
- How Do We Know What Is True? (realclearscience.com)
- How the Scientific Method Works (science.howstuffworks.com)
- <Postulates and Theorems (cliffsnotes.com)
- Axiom (importanceofphilosophy.com)
- Axiom (britannica.com)
- What’s an Axiom? (webhome.phy.duke.edu)
- Difference between axioms, theorems, postulates, corollaries, and hypotheses (math.stackexchange.com)