Second Reading: 1 John 4:11-16

How Do I Know God Exists?

Have you ever had an encounter with someone who doesn't believe in God? How did you try to convince him or her God lives?

Popular Translation

11 Loved ones, if God loves us this much, we should love each other. 12 Nobody has ever seen God, but, if we love each other, God stays with us and his love is made whole in us. 13 We know that we are with God and he is with us because he gave his Spirit to us. 14 We saw the Father sent his Son to save the world. This is our message to you. 15 So, whoever believes Jesus is the Son of God is with God and God is with him. 16 We've know God loved us for a long time. We've put our trust in his love. God is love. The person who shows others love is with God and God is with him.

Literal Translation

11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought to love each other. 12 No one has ever seen God. If we should love each other, God remains in us and his love is made complete in us. 13 In this (way), we know that we remains in him and he in us, because he has given his Spirit to us. 14 We have seen and (we) testify that the Father has sent the SON (as) the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever should confess that JESUS is the SON OF GOD, God remains in him and he in God. 16 We have known and trusted the love God has for us. God is love, and the (one) remaining in love remains in God, and God remains in him.

The philosophy of God contains six classic arguments: five from St. Thomas Aquinas and one from St. Anselm. The Thomistic arguments are: 1) the Prime Mover (all action-reaction needed someone to begin the chain reaction), 2) the Prime Cause (all cause and effect had a single beginning), 3) Cosmological argument (even if matter and motion in the universe are eternal, that does not explain the existence of the universe itself; only a cause outside the universe could bring it into existence), 4) Comparison of Goodness (all things share to some extent in goodness, so there must be an ultimate source of that goodness) and 5) the Teleological argument (from the word "telos" which Greek for "end." All things have a goal; an intelligent designer must be guiding all things toward that goal). St. Anselm was the first person to propose the Ontological argument (the idea of God is the only concept that exists in every conceivable world we can imagine, so he must exist. Gentle reader, if you don't understand any of these arguments, never fear; it took me three weeks in my undergraduate "Philosophy of God" class to appreciate the last one.) These arguments may be rational and cogent, but they lack impact in today's world. People want experience, not pure ideas. If they accept an idea, they want that concept to change them.

The modern argument for the existence of God is one based on experience. How do I know God exists? The idea of a dynamic deity can be life-changing. Critics complain this argument is purely subjective, but believers have used it to justify their actions, both good and bad.

The author of John's first letter used the argument from experience to promote his belief in God. No one has ever seen God, but the author claimed he was an eye witness to what God did. What he saw and what he preached was consistent with the experiences of his followers. The core insight into God's activity and intent was love. God sent his Son because he loved us. We experience that love so we should act accordingly.

Notice the power of his argument lie in the actions of Christians. While we Christians can take comfort in the spiritual depths our faith bring us, our example is our primary witness to the existence of God. When we act in love, our argument for God's existence grows stronger; when we act selfishly, our argument dims.

Many people use the idea of God to justify their acts. They have it backwards. One's acts should justify their faith in God. God acts in life. Charity, Christian love, is the proof of God's activity. While this reason ultimately breaks down (actions cannot supersede faith; God exists in spite of what we do), we should strive to match our actions to our words.

How do I know God exists? I am convinced of his love for me. How can I help convince others he exists? I spread his love to others. It's as simple as that.

How has God's love changed your life? How have you tried to spread that love to others?