One of the most common objections from questioners about God is that belief seems irrational because there is no ‘proof’ that God exists. Given the cultural influences on our children’s minds, this objection may eventually come to us. How then as parents should we respond?
Before responding directly, remember to first ask good questions so that you can understand fully where your child is coming from and what assumptions they are making when asking it. Here are some good questions to ask first:
- “What do you mean by ‘proof’?”
- “What lead you to conclude that there isn’t any proof?”
- “What in your mind could ever be considered proof for God?”
In the common mind of our Canadian culture, proof usually refers to scientific proof or physical evidence. In other words something that can be empirically verified. Our children’s ideas, often shaped by the culture, envision the scientist in the white lab coat performing experiments and “proving” their theories by successfully producing the physical and repeatable evidence that their theory predicts. To be sure, this is a type of proof, but is scientific proof the only means by which we may have trustworthy knowledge about facts?
Help your child see that proof so narrowly defined would actually leave us with very little that we could know at all. Here is a thought experiment to take them through to help illustrate:
Ask you child to ‘prove’ to you that they have a brain. You don’t have an x-ray machine (although you could question whether an x-ray would really count as proof); you can’t open their head up to look inside; etc. So, what proof can they give you that they actually have a brain? (We’ll leave aside the distinction between ‘brain’ and ‘mind’ for the time being)
If they are cleaver, in the absence of any physical evidence for their brain, they will likely begin pointing out the functions of their brain: “I am thinking; I am talking; I am seeing you; I can answer questions; etc”. All of these are expected functions of a working brain, so from there they can conclude that the existence of their brain is the best explanation for the observable functions of a working brain.
Indeed, such reasoning is a perfectly acceptable way to affirm our knowledge of things. It is not proof in the ‘physical scientific evidence’ sense, but in fact most of the things we claim to know are not proven to us this way. Through the combined use of our senses and minds, we perceive the world around us and by reasoning come to know things about it.
Now returning to the question of God we can point out that there are many things in life that we know about without depending upon scientific proof. In fact many of the things we can and do know about are not the kinds of things that we require (or expect) physical evidence for in order to know (eg. the existence of my brain; the laws of mathematics; my experience of the real world, etc). Rather, it is by our capacity to reason that we know these things. It is because we are rational (i.e able to reason) thinking beings.
Now, point out to your child that the very fact that we are able to think about the question: “Does God exist?” actually counts as proof for his existence. After all, what explanation can we give for the fact that we are thinking about that (or any other) question? How is thinking or thought even possible? Where does this ability to think and reason come from? What is the best explanation for it?
The great 20th century mathematician Kurt Godel observed:
“The world is rational”, with the implication that “the order of the world reflects the order of the supreme mind governing it.”
Paul Davies, one of the most influential scientific thinkers of our day, reacted against the atheist idea that the rationally ordered laws of nature exists for no reason:
“As a scientist, I find this hard to accept. There must be an unchanging rational ground in which the logical, orderly nature of the universe is rooted.”
I include these two voices for this reason: even though these men may not know the God who has made himself known to us through the Bible and Jesus Christ, their own scientific understanding of the world cannot explain the rational order of the universe, and man’s ability to understand it and know about it apart from God. Einstein himself was quoted as saying: “The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that is is comprehensible.” That our universe contains minds that can perceive and understand it, and is fashioned in an ordered way that is understandable demands an explanation. Unless the ordered, intelligent, personal and rational God of the Bible is your starting point, thinking itself becomes “unthinkable”. As Solomon put it: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning (i.e. foundation) of knowledge” (Prov 1:7)
What I Would Say To My Child:
The younger a child is, the more simple we need to make our answers. If I were giving this answer to a young child I would simply put it this way.
“It’s impossible to ask for scientific proof that God exists, because science gives us proof about the physical world, and God is separate from and far above the world. But that doesn’t mean there is no evidence. In fact, a BIG piece of evidence for God is the very fact that you can ask questions about him. Where do you suppose your ability to think comes from in the first place? Rocks can’t think. Chemicals can’t think. Animals can’t think. (at least not rationally) So where did we get our ability to think from? Doesn’t it make the most sense that the reason we can think is because we were made by a thinking God? That is how God has revealed himself to us in the Bible; and not just as a thinking God, but an ‘all knowing God’ whose thinking is far greater than anything we can imagine.”
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”
The fact is that without God we would be unable to think, unable to question, unable to know anything at all.