Definitively Proving God’s Existence, One Way or Another

As a skep­tic, I have often asked for proof that God — specif­i­cal­ly the God of the Bible, the reli­gion of which is an over­whelm­ing major­i­ty in my area — exists, to which I’m often told that there is no proof that God exists, that it sim­ply requires faith, or that there is plen­ty of proof but that it takes faith to actu­al­ly accept that proof.

I’m also often chal­lenged to prove that God does­n’t exist, the impli­ca­tion being that one can­not prove a neg­a­tive and so can­not prove that God does­n’t exist, leav­ing open the pos­si­bil­i­ty that he does exist.

The Bible even goes so far as to say that you can­not test God (Deuteron­o­my 6:16; Luke 4:12), and some apol­o­gists will say that you can­not test God from a posi­tion of a lack of faith but that those who have faith in God can test him because they already know he’s real.1

Would you believe, though, that there is an exper­i­ment described by the Bible which is entire­ly repeat­able and which can be per­formed by any group of peo­ple, pro­vid­ed one of them is a believ­er in the God of the Bible and the oth­er isn’t? You won’t find it men­tioned too often by apol­o­gists; a cur­so­ry overview of a hand­ful of arti­cles on test­ing God, as well as OpenBible.info’s rel­e­vant top­ic list­ing, turned up no entry of this par­tic­u­lar test. Here’s the story:

And Eli­jah came unto all the peo­ple, and said, How long halt ye between two opin­ions? if the Lord be God, fol­low him: but if Baal, then fol­low him. And the peo­ple answered him not a word. 22Then said Eli­jah unto the peo­ple, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets are four hun­dred and fifty men. 23Let them there­fore give us two bul­locks; and let them choose one bul­lock for them­selves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the oth­er bul­lock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: 24And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the peo­ple answered and said, It is well spo­ken. 25And Eli­jah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bul­lock for your­selves, and dress it first; or ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under. 26And they took the bul­lock which was giv­en them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morn­ing even until noon, say­ing, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made. 27And it came to pass at noon, that Eli­jah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talk­ing, or he is pur­su­ing, or he is in a jour­ney, or per­ad­ven­ture he sleep­eth, and must be awaked. 28And they cried aloud, and cut them­selves with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them. 29And it came to pass, when mid­day was past, and they proph­e­sied until the time of the offer­ing of the evening sac­ri­fice, that there was nei­ther voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regard­ed. 30And Eli­jah said unto all the peo­ple, Come near unto me. And all the peo­ple came near unto him. And he repaid the altar of the Lord that was bro­ken down. 31And Eli­jah took twelve stones, accord­ing to the num­ber of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the Lord came, say­ing, Israel shall be thy name: 32And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would con­tain two mea­sures of seed. 33And he put the wood in order, and cut the bul­lock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, and said, Fill four bar­rels with water, and pour it on the burnt sac­ri­fice, and on the wood. 34And he said, Do it the sec­ond time. And they did it the sec­ond time. And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time. 35And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water. 36And it came to pass at the time of the offer­ing of the evening sac­ri­fice, that Eli­jah the prophet came near, and said, Lord God of Abra­ham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy ser­vant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. 37Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this peo­ple may know that thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again. 38Then the fire of the Lord fell, and con­sumed the burnt sac­ri­fice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39And when all the peo­ple saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The Lord, he is the God; the Lord, he is the God. 40And Eli­jah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Eli­jah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.

1 Kings 18:21–40, King James Version

https://www.facebook.com/secularnow/videos/1055659801140900/

The short ver­sion of the above is this: The prophet Eli­jah was alone in stand­ing up for the God of Abra­ham, over­whelm­ing­ly out­num­bered by the prophets of Baal. How­ev­er, in faith, he chal­lenged Baal’s prophets to a good ol’ fash­ioned sac­ri­fice off: each god’s prophet(s) would lay out a sac­ri­fice on a pre­pared altar, but would not burn it; the prophet(s) whose god sent fire to burn up the sac­ri­fice would win the chal­lenge, and their god would be shown to exist.

The prophets of Baal went first, yet despite work­ing at it for half the day, Baal nev­er burnt up the sac­ri­fice. Eli­jah taunts them, and then sets up his own sac­ri­fice which of course the God of Abra­ham burns up in accep­tance. Eli­jah then kills the prophets of Baal because, well, … reasons?

The sto­ry reads like a fairy tale, and like so many oth­er fairy tales, it teach­es us a great les­son: the God of the Bible can absolute­ly be test­ed as to whether he exists.

All you need is a Chris­t­ian will­ing to make a sac­ri­fice (in wor­ship, in cel­e­bra­tion, in humil­i­ty, what­ev­er) to God and any­body else will­ing to sac­ri­fice to any­thing else. It has to be a Chris­t­ian, though, one who absolute­ly believes that God is real, at least accord­ing to cer­tain apol­o­gists who think that God can only be test­ed by those who accept his real­ness already.2

That’s all it takes: A sac­ri­fice to show that God does not exist. Once and for all, the Bible’s mythol­o­gy can be shown to not reflect reality.

No doubt there will be some objections.

“Chris­tians don’t sac­ri­fice to God!” Well, no, but nobody com­mand­ed Cain and Abel to do so either, but they did. Sac­ri­fices don’t have to be com­mand­ed; they only need to be genuine.

“Ani­mal killer!” Yeah, this neces­si­tates the killing of at least two ani­mals, but if you work togeth­er with a slaugh­ter­house, you can no doubt accom­plish this. You may actu­al­ly already live on a farm and have ani­mals which you kill your­selves for food — nobody says you can’t dine on these sac­ri­fices if your con­science allows it (1 Corinthi­ans 8), and besides, God is sure to cook one of them right up for you, right?

“Eli­jah already proved God exists!” Yes, in the con­text of the sto­ry. There is no cor­rob­o­rat­ing evi­dence for us to accept the bib­li­cal account as real­i­ty. The New Tes­ta­ment says to “prove all things” (1 Thes­sa­lo­ni­ans 5:21), and “all things” would cer­tain­ly include God or per­haps even the method­ol­o­gy Eli­jah used. In oth­er words, try it for your­self; if you don’t get the same result as Eli­jah, then you obvi­ous­ly don’t have to hold fast to the Bible as being good and true.

“That only worked for Eli­jah!” Ah, of course, it only worked where there were no cam­eras, no impar­tial third par­ties, no last­ing evi­dence. Click­ing red heels togeth­er is a means of mag­i­cal trans­port too, based on the same qual­i­ty of evi­dence.3 There is noth­ing in the text which indi­cates that this event isn’t repeat­able. Eli­jah made the chal­lenge, made the taunts, fol­lowed through with his side of the exper­i­ment, and then went on a mur­der­ous ram­page against the prophets of Baal — noth­ing all that inher­ent to his prophetable­ness.

So what then? We have a fool­proof exper­i­ment to show that the God of the Bible exists. Chris­tians, feel free to put your faith into action.4

Fea­tured image: source, license

  1. Got-Questions.org takes this posi­tion. Noth­ing says “use­ful knowl­edge” like con­duct­ing tests designed to con­firm some­thing which you already believe in. I’m sure con­fir­ma­tion bias won’t affect the results in any way.
  2. Ibid.
  3. See The Wiz­ard of Oz (1939).
  4. Unless of course your annoy­ance with the increas­ing sec­u­lar­i­ty of soci­ety is just all talk.

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Rick Beckman