The question, “Is God real?” was posed to me by my four-year-old daughter. A simple “yes” would not suffice and she further asked; “But I can’t see Him, so how do I know He’s real?”
I admittedly struggled with her question. How do you explain the unseen force of God to anyone, let alone a four-year-old?
I was on a quest to answer my pre-schoolers seemingly simple question, but my journey took me into the world of metaphysics and beyond.
In the physical world around us, many phenomena occur that are unseen, but that are still universally accepted, as we can see the effects they produce. Baha’i scholar and mathematician, Dr William Hatcher, in his article ‘A Scientific Proof of the Existence of God,’ gave the analogy of gravity as one of these unobserved forces.
Suppose we hold a small object like a pencil … and then release it. We observe that it falls to the floor, and we say that the force of gravity causes it to fall… Do we actually see any downward force acting upon the pencil, something pulling or pushing it? Clearly, not. We do not observe the force of gravity at all.
… Nothing we can observe physically blocks the pencil from following any direction; nor can we observe anything that seems to favor one direction more than the others. … Thus, what we actually observe is a persistent, consistent, and significant deviation from, randomness, and it is this deviation from randomness (without any observable reason for such deviation) that leads us to appeal to the existence of an unobserved force as the cause of the observed non-random behavior.1
Likewise, Abdu’l-Baha points to “an unseen force described as the Ancient Power,”2 evolving or pushing “elements to come together, every formation giving rise to a distinct being”3 and towards a state of order. The ordered world we live in is in stark contrast to the state of disorder one would expect given the scientific law of entropy, which states that any system if left to itself should degenerate towards disorder. This persistent, consistent and significant deviation from disorder is the unseen force of God.
Admittedly, to my four-year-old daughter, I gave her the simpler analogy of wind. Explaining to her that we can’t see wind, but know it is there because of its effects. Similarly we cannot see God, but we can observe the effect or force He has on creation.
To the question “How shall we know God?” Abdu’l-Baha answered:
We know Him by His attributes. We know Him by His signs. We know Him by His names. We know not what the reality of the sun is, but we know the sun by the ray, by the heat, by its efficacy and penetration. We recognize the sun by its bounty and effulgence, but as to what constitutes the reality of the solar energy, that is unknowable to us. The attributes characterizing the sun, however, are knowable. If we wish to come in touch with the reality of Divinity, we do so by recognizing its phenomena, its attributes and traces, which are widespread in the universe.4
Furthermore, Abdu’l-Baha expounds:
Thus man cannot grasp the Essence of Divinity, but can, by his reasoning power, by observation, by his intuitive faculties and the revealing power of his faith, believe in God, discover the bounties of His Grace. He becometh certain that though the Divine Essence is unseen of the eye, and the existence of the Deity is intangible, yet conclusive spiritual proofs assert the existence of that unseen Reality.5
Although we may observe God’s effect on creation, there is still another level of complexity to the matter. Namely, only once we understand our complete and utter dependence on Him, can we have an inkling of His true station.
…the Divine Essence surrounds all things. Verily, that which surrounds is greater than the surrounded, and the surrounded cannot contain that by which it is surrounded, nor comprehend its reality.6
To explain this point to my four-year-old I gave her the analogy of the child in the mother’s womb. The child cannot see or interact with us, but we can see and interact with the child. I likened her questioning the existence of God, to a child in the womb questioning the existence of its mother. The child cannot see its mother, because it is contained in her. Likewise, we may struggle to see God, as we are fully immersed within His creation.
…all creation is receiving incessant bounty from God and is dependent on Him, as the body is dependent upon the soul.7
In conclusion, it is important to note, that despite these rational arguments, nothing in science is ever considered as proven absolutely. An outcome is seen rather as more ‘plausible’ than another. Regardless of this distinction, Abdu’l-Baha urges us to:
…apply thyself to rational and authoritative arguments. For arguments are a guide to the path and by this the heart will be turned unto the Sun of Truth. And when the heart is turned unto the Sun, then the eye will be opened and will recognize the Sun through the Sun itself. Then (man) will be in no need of arguments (or proofs) for the Sun is altogether independent…8
- William Hatcher, A Scientific Proof of the Existence of God, Journal of BahA’I Studies, vol. 5, number 4, 1994 [↩]
- Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha’s Tablet to August Forel, George Ronald
Publishers, 1978, p. 17 [↩]
- Ibid. [↩]
- Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, U.S Baha’i Publishing Trust, 1982, p.422 [↩]
- Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha’s Tablet to August Forel, George Ronald Publishers, 1978, p. 15-16 [↩]
- Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, U.S Baha’i Publishing Trust, 1990, p.146 [↩]
- Abdu’l-Baha, November 26, 1912, as cited in “Mahmud’s Diary”, George Ronald Publishers, 1997, p.411 [↩]
- Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha Abbas, Baha’i Publishing Committee, 1909, p.168 [↩]