Why are we here?

Why Are We Here?

24 January 2024

6.5 MINS

In my ongoing series on the four individuals I’ve described as the “Defenders of the Faith”, I mentioned the four most famous atheist authors and intellectuals: Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris. These four became known as “The Four Horsemen of the New Atheism”. For several years in the early years of this century, they were riding roughshod across the Christian worldview.

Over that time, I’ve become increasingly concerned at the lack of understanding of the average Christian in relation to the issues these men (and others) raised to challenge the charges laid by these critics. I’m sure many of us know from experience that these charges still come up in conversations with non-believers.

However, in my experience, the average non-Christian who brings up these challenges to us is no more knowledgeable than we are. In most cases, they have simply accepted without question a conclusion that matches their worldview. Such questions as “Hasn’t Science disproved God?” or “If God created the Universe, then who created God?” and a few others come to mind.

The reality is that as Christians, we do have strong grounds for our beliefs, and on every level and every aspect: rationally, scientifically, historically, logically. And that’s a significant part of the reason why we are instructed in Scripture to “always be ready to give a defence to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15 NKJV)


The most basic question of all must be, “Why are we here?” And “Why is there something instead of nothing?”

After all, it’s only human to consider the kind of weighty, existential questions such as those concerning meaning and personal significance. As the writer of an article on what philosophers call “The Argument from Contingency” from the British evangelical organisation, Solas, correctly notes, “There must be an ultimate reality which we accept as a brute fact.”

If you’re a Christian, it will be through divine, supernatural agency. If not, then Nature itself is the only alternative.

So the issue of contingency, why there is something rather than nothing, and the proceeding issue of how the universe came into existence is of vital importance to these ultimate considerations for our lives and, ultimately, the way we live.

In this context, even the arch anti-theist Richard Dawkins said, “The question of whether there exists a supernatural creator, a God, is one of the most important that we have to answer.”

So you have to ask yourself the ultimate question about the ultimate question: what’s the better explanation for our universe? Is it random natural processes? Or is it a Divine Designer?

Many have questioned the potential of the incredible order in the universe, not to mention it being “fine-tuned” for supporting life, arising by random processes by means of what we know about things like probability theory in mathematics and genetics, just to mention two areas.

Richard Dawkins even observes in one of his books that the universe and everything in it “has the appearance of design”, which is a proper scientific observation. But as John Lennox noted, by simply making the bare assertion that it is not designed, he then resorts not to science but to philosophy to do so. There’s no shortage of critics who call him out for his poor understanding of philosophy.

Dawkins, to attempt to prove the possibility of random material forces producing the universe and everything in it, then uses a very silly thought experiment to prove that, given enough time, those random events will add up to the natural universe as we find it today.

He does this by taking a phrase from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “methinks it is like a weasel,” and giving it to a specific number of chimps at typewriters and working out how long it will take till the phrase is unscrambled. But what he fails to realise is that he’s started with not an infinite number of possible combinations but a finite number of letters. The whole experiment is the product of his design!


Possibly the best and most concise explanation of why there is “something instead of nothing” is known as the “Kalam Cosmological Argument”, first described by Al-Ghazali, a twelfth-century Muslim theologian from Persia, which is expressed as a syllogism. For those not familiar with the term, a syllogism is a three-part logical argument based on deductive reasoning, in which two premises are combined to arrive at a conclusion.

Here is Al-Ghazali’s syllogism:

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Simple and elegant!

As Christian philosopher William Lane Craig, the man who has single-handedly brought it back into the limelight, explains:

“Because of its historic roots in medieval Islamic theology, I christened the argument “the kalam cosmological argument” (“kalam” is the Arabic word for medieval theology). Today this argument, largely forgotten since the time of Kant, is once again back at center stage.

The Cambridge Companion to Atheism (2007) reports, ‘A count of the articles in the philosophy journals shows that more articles have been published about… the Kalam argument than have been published about any other…contemporary formulation of an argument for God’s existence… theists and atheists alike ‘cannot leave [the] Kalam argument alone.’”

In this video, Lane Craig unpacks “Kalam” in greater detail. From the article from Solas I quoted earlier:

“… the argument from contingency draws from these two principles that the universe exists because God exists and decided to create it. He is the one self-existent or necessary Being that explains everything else.

Maybe that sounds too simple? Not everyone is convinced by it.

For example, in 2010, Dr Stephen Hawking released a new book (The Grand Design), which was widely reported in the press because he asserted that there was no longer any need to believe in a God who created the universe. Instead, he asserted that the origins of the universe can be explained by its own compelling laws of physics. But this overlooks something so important: laws require a law-giver. Physical laws are just a mechanism by which the universe works, but they did not make themselves – and we all know that mechanisms require a maker!

Again, in 2006, Dr Richard Dawkins wrote a best-selling book (The God Delusion), which cross-examined the argument from contingency by essentially asking: “And who made God?” The short answer would counter that because God is eternal, without a beginning, He has no cause, and there is no need for any further explanation for His existence.”

I also recall Dawkins trying that question on John Lennox in a debate, and Lennox described it as a “kindergarten question” as it was a category error, because the question assumes a created creator. But as the God of the Bible is infinite and infinitely powerful and all-knowing, He is an uncreated Creator who exists outside His creation.

For those who are interested in going a bit deeper, there are two excellent debates between Dawkins and Lennox available online:

Once you deal with the problems which are inherent in any materialist explanation there is possibly the greatest problem, that of explaining human consciousness itself. As the atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel said:

“Consciousness is the most conspicuous obstacle to a comprehensive naturalism that relies only on the resources of physical science. The existence of consciousness seems to imply that the physical description of the universe, in spite of its richness and explanatory power, is only part of the truth, and that the natural order is far less austere than it would be if physics and chemistry accounted for everything. If we take this problem seriously, and follow out its implications, it threatens to unravel the entire naturalistic world picture.”


“Materialism is incomplete even as a theory of the physical world, since the physical world includes conscious organisms among its most striking occupants.”

As a logical consequence of this, he said,

“Evolutionary naturalism implies that we shouldn’t take any of our convictions seriously, including the scientific world picture on which evolutionary naturalism itself depends.”

In the same vein, the famous evolutionary scientist J B S Haldane also took this logical conclusion a bit further:

“If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true… and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.”

But the best explanation has to be this from C. S. Lewis:

“Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought.

But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”

So, for me, this argument is self-explanatory: how could there not be a Divine Designer? And when you examine the claims of all the possible candidates, there’s only One who best fits the evidence — the God of the Bible.

Rest assured that whenever people you know hit you with these kinds of questions, know that we as Christians have rock-solid answers. As my late father-in-law used to say, “It’s not what you know that counts, but knowing where to look.” Today, we have all the knowledge that we need at our fingertips; this means that if someone puts such a challenge to you, and you don’t know the answer, at least you can admit you don’t know, but offer to get back to them, because it will be easy enough to find.


Photo by Tobias Bjørkli.

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One Comment

  1. Warwick Marsh 24 January 2024 at 2:45 pm - Reply

    Great and much need article!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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