It is possible (even necessary), given an honest appraisal of the world in which we live, to draw the conclusion that the world is not self-existent. This simply means that the existence of the world must depend upon something other than itself. The world did not create the world.
Laws of science, for example, state that the world is running down. If this is true, and few doubt that it is, then just as sure as the world will one day end, is the certainty that it must have had a beginning. And, if it had a beginning, we must ask how this beginning occurred.
Though there might me a large number of theoretical explanations for the origin of the world, let's consider the following three general approaches:
First, some observe the world and conclude that it has always existed. An eternally existing world, however, does not coincide with the observation that the world is running down. The second law of thermodynamics involves the principle of entropy, or disorder, in a given environment. The law states that the entropy of a system can not decrease. In other words, entropy is always increasing in any given environment.
Because an eternal world must account for its own existence in and of itself, it can not be a world in which entropic principles are exhibited. Our world, because it exhibits principles of entropy (disorder), can not therefore be eternal or self-existent. A reliance on external forces to account for its own existence is needed, which need is inconsistent with a claim to being eternal. This first option is self-defeating.
Second, others consider the evidence in the world and conclude that what exists now must have sprung into existence from nothing, and that it did so without cause. This conclusion demands that "nothingness" has creative ability. The dictum "out of nothing, nothing comes" is axiomatic. It presupposes a recognition of the self-evident principle of cause and effect. To claim that this world was brought into existence (effect) without a force sufficient to account for its creation (cause) requires that all credibility, reason and knowledge be suspended. This second option is also self-defeating.
Third, the honest appraisal that we mentioned at the beginning demands that we respect the following principle: Every creation must have a creator. To put it another way, every effect must have a cause. That, plus the fact that a cause must be sufficient to account for any given effect, leads us to consider that there really is a creator.
There are two variations of this third explanation. The creator of the world must, of necessity, be either self-existent or contingent. If self-existent (i.e., uncreated), this creator would be sufficient to account for the existence of the world as well as himself. If contingent, though this creator might be sufficient to account for the existence of the world, it would be insufficient to account for its own existence. And off we go again in search of an ultimate cause. Of the two variations, only the first, the existence of a self-existent creator, provides sufficient cause for the world. This option does not inherently involve contradictory, or self-defeating, principles. This option leads us to the existence of an infinite Creator, God.
Many people have no problems whatsoever with the line of reasoning that we have presented here so far. It is a common sense view. It leads us to inescapable conclusions based upon generally accepted and obvious evidence.
This common sense view of cause and effect is reflected throughout all disciplines: physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, engineering, etc. It is not, however, limited only to disciplines of knowledge relating to this world. The Bible also affirms this principle when it teaches that the world provides sufficient evidence to know that God exists. This principle of cause and effect is seen throughout the Bible, especially in the following three passages:
(1) Psalm 19:1 states: "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork." A knowledge of God is manifested in the greatness of creation.
(2) Paul, in Acts 14:17, said "Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness." A knowledge of God is seen in the mechanics of his creation.
And (3), Romans 1:20 says: "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse..." A knowledge of God, specifically His power, is clearly seen reflected in the world.
But there exists a limit to such reasoning. Though we might arrive at the conclusion that God exists from examining the world around us, and though we might learn of His power and purposeful design from our study, the physical evidence of the creation does not tell us everything that we might want, or need, to know about God. The world points to the existence of God, but it does not tell us all that can be known about His nature, His will and His works.
How, then, can we know more about God? Is there a way? If so, what is it? A number of answers could be given to explain how we think we know what we know. They include: (1) someone told me, (2) I have always believed it, (3) everybody believes it; or (4) it's a feeling that I have. Though it is true that people have ideas and opinions about who and what God is from these, or other, sources, none of these constitute our only real source of information about the true nature of God. What is that source?
The Principle - If we gathered all the relevant evidence and examined it diligently, an answer could be found. Ultimately, this evaluation process would reveal that the Bible, and only the Bible, is God's special revelation to man.
The Application - Though not fully addressed here, consider for a moment the issue of the Bible's inspiration. By examining the Bible's claims we would learn that the Bible makes hundreds, and thousands, of tacit claims to be inspired by God. Every occurrence of "thus says the Lord," "the word of the Lord," and the "Lord has spoken" is a claim to Divine inspiration - and there are hundreds of such claims of just these three phrases. In brief, the Bible claims to be inspired.
If we took the time to investigate these claims, we would consider both internal and external evidences for Biblical inspiration. When examined in detail, we would find that historic, geographic (external) and prophetic (internal) evidences yield the conclusion that the Bible is just what it claims to be - the inspired word of God. By noting scientific, geographical and historical evidences we would see that secular knowledge confirms and corroborates these claims, and so demonstrates Divine inspiration.
All of this evidence (there is much more, to be sure) leads us to conclude that the Bible is an amazing book. But it is so much more than just an amazing book. It, and it alone, is Divinely inspired. Only the Bible is God's word to, and for, man. We do not now have, nor will we have in the future, additional revelations from God that nullify, or modify, the truths contained in the Bible.
Only the Bible tells us who God is, what He is like, and, most importantly for our sake, what He wants for man. According to the word of God, we can know all that we need to know about God by studying His word, the Bible (see 2 Peter 1:3-4).
How important, then, is the Bible? The following list, though certainly not exhaustive, gives some indication of its value:
(1) It is the singular written will of God for man.
(2) Only the Bible tells us of God's eternal plan.
(3) It, and it alone, tells us of the Christ, His relationship to the Godhead, His incarnation, and His death on the cross for mankind.
(4) Only the Bible tells us about God's eternal kingdom, the church.
(5) The Bible is the only Divine source that tells us that within God's eternal kingdom there is salvation, the forgiveness of sins, and the hope of eternal life in the presence of God.
(6) Nothing but the Bible tells us how we can find, identify and enter God's eternal kingdom, and how we should live as members of that kingdom.
(7) The Bible is the only Divine book that tells us how this world came into existence.
(8) Only the Bible tells us about the true origin and nature of man.
(9) It is the sole Divine source of our knowledge of man's place in creation.
(10) No other book but the Bible informs us of man's eternal destiny.
Consider this: If there is a God, and if the Bible really is His sole revelation to man, does this say anything significant about the Bible's importance? Absolutely. If it is true that only the Bible can tell us everything that can really be known about God and what he has in mind for man, then the Bible is the most important book in the world. It is more important than any, and all, books written on science, business, politics, psychology or history.
Read the Bible. Study the Bible. In it you will learn of God's will for your life. Submit yourself to that will and you will receive the blessings that God has planned from eternity for you to have.