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How do you prove something you can’t see or measure? An atheist and a Christian both get questioned about what they believe and go on a quest to find out if there really is proof for the existence of God.



#58: Proving God

Note: The Love Thy Neighborhood podcast is made for the ear, and not the eye. We would encourage you to listen to the audio for the full emotional emphasis of this episode. The following transcription may contain errors. Please refer to the audio before quoting any content from this episode. 

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RACHEL SZABO: So in the mid 1200s there was this problem happening. For the first time in history, Christians were coming up against scientific rationalism and philosophy. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay. In what way? 

RACHEL SZABO: Okay, so the battle would go something like this. A Christian would see a flower, and they would say that flower exists because God made it. 


RACHEL SZABO: Answers were simple, easy. They allowed for mystery. A philosopher would see that same flower and say that flower exists because water and sunlight and a process called photosynthesis makes it grow. Answers were with science and logic. 

JESSE EUBANKS: And so it was like the sense of who gets the credit in this situation.

RACHEL SZABO: Right. And these two camps – they were not getting along at all, but into this battle steps a guy named Thomas Aquinas. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Oh, okay. Yeah. 

RACHEL SZABO: Thomas – he was an Italian priest and a theologian, but he was also a philosopher and he thought that this battle between God and logic, between supernatural and natural, that it was unnecessary.


RACHEL SZABO: And that the two could actually work together. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, so like what was his approach? Like what was his process? 

RACHEL SZABO: Okay, so to prove his point, Thomas decided to use logic and reasoning to prove the existence of a supernatural God. 


RACHEL SZABO: He developed essentially five different proofs, or ways as they’re sometimes called, that prove God exists.

JESSE EUBANKS: Ah, okay. What are they? 

RACHEL SZABO: So we’re not gonna go into all five because that would turn this episode into a philosophy class. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Uh-huh, yeah. 

RACHEL SZABO: We’re not gonna do that, but I’ll give you an example. So his first proof is the proof of motion. So he took the Greek philosopher Aristotle’s view of things being in constant motion, and he argued that there has to be a source behind the motion, like the first domino that tips over all the other dominoes.

JESSE EUBANKS: Oh, like there’s gotta be something at the origin of all motion. 


JESSE EUBANKS: Some initial trigger. 

RACHEL SZABO: Yes. And Thomas was arguing that that source or that initial domino is God. 


RACHEL SZABO: So that’s just one of his proofs, but he made four other similar arguments combining laws of nature and logic with theology in order to try to prove that there is a God. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Man, I cannot imagine that that went over very well with either camp, like I’m imagining, like, the church would’ve been upset and I’m imagining that, like, the philosophers of the day would’ve been upset. Like how did people respond to this? 

RACHEL SZABO: Yeah, so the response was kind of a mixed bag. And actually within the church, Thomas’s ideas were not received well at all. You are correct. Three years after his death, much of his work and his teaching was condemned by the high church’s theological jury. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, I saw heresy coming down the line on that one. Yeah.

RACHEL SZABO: Exactly, yes. But here’s what’s interesting is that later the church actually changed its tune. 50 years after his death, Thomas was actually canonized as a saint.


RACHEL SZABO: And called a defender of orthodoxy. 


RACHEL SZABO: And his philosophy was adopted in 1917 as the official philosophy of the Roman Catholic Church. 


RACHEL SZABO: And it’s also interesting, you know, when it comes to secular, philosophical thought, Thomism – which is kind of the word for his ideas – is a well-respected viewpoint. 

JESSE EUBANKS: It’s fascinating, like, in the moment that he first delivers the idea, like, the pitchforks and fire come out and he’s, like, condemned as some level of heretic and then, like, time catches up and people are like, “Oh wait, never mind. Never mind. He was actually brilliant.” 

RACHEL SZABO: Yeah, and here’s what’s also fascinating. So this happened almost 800 years ago, but this is still like an issue that we see going on today. People are still wrestling with this stuff – issues of faith versus science versus logic, issues of how can we know God is real, issues of is there a way to prove, you know, scientifically, factually, historically, that God exists. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Right, yeah. So that’s what we’re gonna explore today – modern stories of people trying to figure out if there’s a way to prove the existence of God.


JESSE EUBANKS: You’re listening to The Love Thy Neighborhood podcast. Today’s episode – “Proving God.” Welcome to our corner of the urban universe.


RACHEL SZABO: Okay, so Jesse, you and I have each brought a story that we’re gonna share for this episode. But before we do that, I think we need to make a caveat that this episode is not going to be a philosophy class and we’re not gonna dive too deep into academia, um, on this topic. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Right, right, right. Yeah. Like proving the existence of God through science or reason or logic – it’s something that folks with PhDs debate over. That’s not us. 


JESSE EUBANKS: Uh, and we just aren’t going to even pretend to be qualified to join that kind of debate. 

RACHEL SZABO: Right. So if you, the listener, were hoping for, like, “here’s a three-point argument about why God exists,” sorry. You’re not gonna find that here. Instead, we’re simply gonna do what we do best and that is tell stories.

JESSE EUBANKS: Yep. Okay. So we have two different stories following people who went on a journey to find out if there is proof for God. 

RACHEL SZABO: And I think as the senior producer you should go first. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Oh, thank you. 

RACHEL SZABO: So, Jesse, what is your story? 

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, so our first story actually comes from a guy named Francis Collins. Francis is now a world renowned scientist and a geneticist.


JESSE EUBANKS: But at the time that the story starts, he was just an average 23 year old, he was a med school student, and he was an atheist. Here’s Francis in an interview with the Language of Godpodcast.

FRANCIS COLLINS CLIP: I went to medical school as an atheist and avoided discussions about faith and avoided medical school colleagues who were believers who wanted to talk to me about their faith. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Francis said that he made it a point to avoid sitting next to any Christians in the cafeteria at lunch because they would inevitably try to talk to him about their faith, and Francis just was not interested because he believed in something that he calls metaphysical naturalism. 

RACHEL SZABO: What is that? 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, so that’s actually a fancy way of basically saying that nothing matters except what you can measure through science, that the natural world is all there is and there is no God. So things like miracles and faith – they’re just superstitions from a less enlightened era, and we need to rid ourselves of those things in order to move society forward. 

RACHEL SZABO: Oh, okay. So basically – the material world, that’s it. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yep. And because that was what he believed, he saw Christians as kind of weirdos. 

FRANCIS COLLINS CLIP: I had no grounding, uh, in religion other than having been sent to church to learn music – uh, which I learned – but I didn’t learn the rest of it at all. Thought it was a lot of hocus pocus. 

JESSE EUBANKS: But then this thing happened – Francis’s beliefs actually got shaken up when he moved into his third year as a med student because that was when he started getting more hands-on experience, actually going into hospitals and working with patients, and one of the things that he found himself doing was having to sit at the bedsides of people who were extremely ill and had illnesses that frankly had no cure, no doctors could really do anything for them. He found himself sitting with people who were dying. 

FRANCIS COLLINS CLIP: I got quite affected by that and watched these people facing the end of their lives and wondered what I would do.

RACHEL SZABO: Yeah, I think that’s something that we all wrestle with. Like, how would I face death? 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah. And for Francis, like he believed that death comes and that’s it, like your brain shuts down, your heart shuts down, that’s the end of who you are. There’s nothing beyond that doorway. If the physical is all that there is, there is no afterlife. But some of the patients that he spent time with – they were facing death with a very different attitude than that. One of those patients was an elderly woman.

FRANCIS COLLINS CLIP: And a particular patient that I was assigned to who’s a grandmotherly, uh, lovely woman from rural North Carolina had terrible advanced cardiac disease and daily episodes of crushing chest pain, which none of our medicines were helping much. And at the end of one of those, uh, pains where she was finally coming out of it and she was talking about how her faith saw her through and she knew her life was not going to last much longer, um, but Jesus was there with her, I listened somewhat awkwardly and she stopped and she said, “You know, doctor, I’ve told you about my faith, and you never say anything. What do you believe, doctor?” Nobody had ever asked me that in such an open, honest, wonderfully caring way. And I stammered something like, “Well, I don’t think I really know,” where upon her eyes widened like, “Really?” And I got outta the room as fast as I could. 

JESSE EUBANKS: So this question actually caught Francis off-guard, and here’s why – because it made him realize that he was an atheist simply out of convenience, not out of conviction. 

RACHEL SZABO: Wait, what do you mean? 

JESSE EUBANKS: Well, he believed in the material world because that’s what he worked with all day. He worked with things that he could touch and things that he could measure and things that he could see, and so that was the world he understood. That was the worldview he had. And so he was drawing all these bigger conclusions in life only out of his experience, and it was not because he had done research and come to some informed conclusion. He was living out of simply what he’d experienced. 

FRANCIS COLLINS CLIP: And that really tormented me for the next few days. Like I’m supposed to be a scientist, I’m supposed to care about answering important questions. She just asked me a really important question that I realized I have absolutely nothing to go on in terms of how to answer it. I would identify myself as an atheist, but it was because that was the answer I wanted, not because it was something I’d actually explored.

JESSE EUBANKS: In short, he basically realized that he was being a bad scientist. He was making assumptions without evidence to back it up. 

RACHEL SZABO: Yeah, ’cause what do scientists do? They have a hypothesis and then they measure it and they say yes that’s true or no it’s not.

JESSE EUBANKS: Exactly. And so Francis decided that he needed to do something about this.

FRANCIS COLLINS CLIP: Maybe it’s time to explore it. I thought I would undertake a search. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, so basically Francis decided to take a scientific approach to his beliefs. He would do research, collect data, and then he would come to a conclusion. So straight-up science stuff. He was pretty sure that the conclusion was gonna be in favor of his atheism anyway, but he decided to start off his research by talking to some Christians and it just so happened there was a Christian actually within Francis’s own neighborhood. 

FRANCIS COLLINS CLIP: So at this point I lived, uh, on Old Hillsborough Road in Carrboro, North Carolina and down the street, uh, was the Carrboro United Methodist Church and the pastor, uh, lived in a house a couple doors away from that. 

JESSE EUBANKS: His wife had actually visited this Methodist church a couple of times. He says she was a lot more open to religion than he was, so he asked her what she thought of the pastor and she said, “Well, he seems like a pretty approachable guy.” 

FRANCIS COLLINS CLIP: So in an effort to try to find out why believers actually believe, I went and knocked on his door. 

JESSE EUBANKS: The minister’s name was Sam. And when Sam answered the door, Francis wasted no time. He just got right to the point. 

FRANCIS COLLINS CLIP: “Hey Sam, um, I’m the guy who lives up the street here and I’m a intern in medicine and I’m interested in learning something about why believers believe because I’ve observed that people seem to actually take this stuff seriously. Um, I don’t have any background in that sort of thing. Maybe you could explain to me how could a rational person, uh, actually sign up, uh, to some of these ideas about God without completely checking their brain at the door.” 

RACHEL SZABO: How’s that for an introduction? (laughter)

JESSE EUBANKS: Right, right. 

RACHEL SZABO: “Hi, you don’t know me, but let’s talk about why you believe what you believe because I think it’s a bunch of hogwash.”

JESSE EUBANKS: Uh, exactly. Yeah. Yeah. So they actually ended up talking for over an hour, and, uh, Sam actually reassured him that many people have asked the same questions that Francis was asking and that having faith didn’t mean chucking your intellect out the window. And at the end of their conversation, Sam had a suggestion for Francis.

FRANCIS COLLINS CLIP: Then he said, “Well, let me challenge you, uh, to read a book that I have here on my shelf. It’s not a very long book, uh, but it’s written by somebody who asked the same questions you did and found a path forward and you could decide whether it fits you or not.” And he took this little book down. And, of course, this was Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.

JESSE EUBANKS: So, sidebar, for those of you who are not familiar with Mere Christianity, it’s a book by C.S. Lewis that is sort of his case for the Christian faith where he talks about the meaning of the universe, the nature of human law, and breaks down core tenets of what Christians actually believe. And Lewis himself was an atheist before learning about Christianity and becoming convinced by all the evidence that he saw for it, which is probably what made this minister think that it might be a good book for Francis to read. 

RACHEL SZABO: Yeah, that makes sense. 

FRANCIS COLLINS CLIP: And in that very first chapter, uh, all of my objections began to fall to pieces, that first chapter about the moral law. 

JESSE EUBANKS: So moral law – basically this idea that morality is baked into us as human beings. Where did this idea of morality come from, right and wrong? 

FRANCIS COLLINS CLIP: And that my own position on this was really that of a child, not of somebody who had thought the issues through at all.

JESSE EUBANKS: Francis was finding that his arguments for believing that the material world was all that there was were just too basic. They weren’t well thought out. Like I said before, his atheism came out of convenience, not really out of conviction. And again, as a scientist at his core, convenience just wasn’t gonna be good enough. He wanted solid evidence, and right now the evidence looked like it was leaning heavily in favor of there actually being a God. But Francis was not about to be convinced by just one book. 

FRANCIS COLLINS CLIP: It probably took me several weeks to get through to the end of the book, at which point I realized I had a serious problem maintaining my previous perspective, but I was a long way from buying into it. This was gonna take a journey.

JESSE EUBANKS: So Francis continued his experiment. He developed a relationship with Sam, the minister who had given him the book, and even started attending Sam’s church. He just felt like he needed to observe more people who claim to believe in God.


FRANCIS COLLINS CLIP: And so I began to visit his church and listen to his views from the pulpit about what God is all about and this idea that God is not a harsh judge that’s out to catch you, uh, but that God is about love. Sam’s favorite verse, uh, John 10:10 – “I came that they might have life and have it abundantly.” The words of Jesus. Really? Really? Wow, that’s not the way I’d heard Christianity described. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Francis actually continued his investigation for two years, and during that time he observed Christianity, but he also ended up observing other religions like Islam and Hinduism. He just really felt like he needed to do all of the work and look at all the evidence before he could truly make a conclusion. But here’s the thing – the more that he studied, the more that he kept finding evidence that there might be a possibility that there could be a God of some kind behind everything.

RACHEL SZABO: Well, like what kind of evidence? 

JESSE EUBANKS: So things like this – the fact that there is something instead of nothing, the fact that the universe is so intricately put together, the fact that those intricacies are combined in such a way as to make life possible, the fact that we’re even here and the odds of that happening are so astronomically against us unless something is behind it, the fact that things like second order differential equations existed in nature so there must be a master mathematician behind it all. 

RACHEL SZABO: Okay, so he’s starting to come to the conclusion that there is a God. 

JESSE EUBANKS: I would say that he’s really, really open to that idea and that there’s now these really compelling, logical concepts on the table that are pointing him in that direction. So when he looks at all of this different evidence, it actually now presents him with a new problem. The more that Francis learned about God or divine power or whatever force was behind the universe, the more that he was actually also learning about his own shortcomings. So if this God was real and this God was the creator of right and wrong of calling this created universe to some kind of order, then where does that leave Francis and his own brokenness? So Francis was suddenly feeling, like, really exposed, and that left him with a couple of questions. Where he started off initially with just like one question – “Is there a God?” –


JESSE EUBANKS: Well now he’s gotta add a second question in there – if there is a God, what is that God’s relationship with us? 


JESSE EUBANKS: Does that God care about us? And for that second question, Francis actually ended up visiting some of his med school professors who he knew were believers, and one of them told Francis about this radical concept. 

FRANCIS COLLINS CLIP: A particular professor, uh, of medicine, uh, talked to me about his own recognition of the concept of grace, and that was really a moment of realization both about what grace is and how badly all of us, including me, are in need of it. 

JESSE EUBANKS: And for Francis, this grace seemed to be the missing piece of his puzzle. 

FRANCIS COLLINS CLIP: And that maybe was the moment where the Christian view of who God is began to make special sense ’cause I was wrestling all through this time with, “Well, what about all those other world religions?” and “I should probably avoid becoming a Christian because it’s the obvious answer for somebody who’s growing up in the United States of America, so let me try to be something else.” And I saw those world religions having an awful lot of similarities, but also this profound difference – the person of Jesus Christ and the meaning of the resurrection, which grace all kind of connected with, helping me see, “Yes, I am so far short of what I should be, and if God is holy, how could God possibly accept me? Oh, because of Jesus.”

JESSE EUBANKS: And after two years of searching, on a hike on a summer morning in the dewey grass of the Cascade Mountains, Francis fell on his knees and he said to God, “I get it, and I’m yours. I wanna be your follower.”

RACHEL SZABO: But hold on. So he started this whole journey with this scientific approach of, “I’m gonna collect the data, I’m gonna do the research, and I’m gonna come to a conclusion.” But is that what ultimately happened? It feels like there was more to it than that. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Well, the answer is yes and no. You know, in the end it wasn’t reason or science alone that convinced Francis. Those things definitely played a huge role, but it was also just the nature of God, his grace, his forgiveness, his love, displayed through people, and especially through Jesus. Francis was just compelled by this beauty that he saw and that he wanted to be a part of it. Francis has also said that he doesn’t really know anybody who has become convinced of Christianity through just reason alone. At some level, there always just has to be a leap of faith. It takes a work of God. Today, Francis the atheist-turned-Christian is one of the world’s leading scientists and geneticists. He spearheaded the project that first mapped out the entire human genome. The man is a genius. He’s also founded an organization called BioLogos, whose mission is to show how faith and science actually work hand-in-hand. To learn more about Francis Collins, you can check out his book where he tells more of his story. It’s called The Language of God.

RACHEL SZABO: Coming up – a Christian gets questioned about his faith and goes on a search to find the ultimate argument for God. We’ll be right back.


JESSE EUBANKS: It’s the Love Thy Neighborhood podcast. Jesse Eubanks. 

RACHEL SZABO: Rachel Szabo. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Today’s episode – “Proving God.” So we’re hearing two stories of people trying to prove God, and we’ve just heard from Francis Collins. Rach, what’s our second story? 

RACHEL SZABO: Our second story comes from a guy named Nathan Schneider. And for Nathan, when he was growing up, the existence of God and religion – it was kind of a hodgepodge. 

NATHAN SCHNEIDER: I, I grew up in a inter-religious family. It was always interesting. Um, my father’s side is Jewish. Um, my mother’s side was kind of Midwestern Protestant. But, um, my mother, when I was a kid, became deeply connected to Indian traditions. And so I grew up with that mix of, uh, several ancient traditions.

RACHEL SZABO: So in Nathan’s household, there was never really talk about God, so Nathan really didn’t give the idea of God much thought. 

NATHAN SCHNEIDER: In many respects, God was just not a presence. God was not something that we argued about or discussed because, you know, my, my father’s Judaism was a pretty agnostic Judaism. Then for my mother, you know, God might be a concept, but there were other concepts. You know, God had such a different meaning from what a Christian might – at least a different language from what a Christian might use. 

JESSE EUBANKS: So that’s like a lot of different ideas all around him at one time. 

RACHEL SZABO: Right. And Nathan, you know, growing up, he was kind of like, “Eh, take it or leave it.” He didn’t really consider it too much, but then he turned 18 and he started asking all those existential questions that we all do – things like, “Who am I, what’s my place in the world, and what do I believe?” 

NATHAN SCHNEIDER: You know, leaving home for the first time and, and kinda emotional, uh, disturbances and so forth, you know, I, I felt was in a time of a kind of deep urgency of “what am I, who am I in, and what is my relationship to the universe?” 

RACHEL SZABO: So in order to find some answers to those questions, Nathan decided to find some help at a local monastery. And in fact, it was actually his mom’s suggestion that he’d go check it out. 

NATHAN SCHNEIDER: Monks who live a very simple life doing simple work, like making fruitcakes and farming in some cases, and just pray through most of the day.

RACHEL SZABO: So Nathan visited this monastery and essentially begged the monks to let him learn from them. 

JESSE EUBANKS: So like the 18 year old goes up to some monks and is like, “Can I hang out with you?” 

RACHEL SZABO: Pretty much, yeah.

NATHAN SCHNEIDER: I ended up persuading the monks, uh, to let me stay on a extended retreat. Um, and they were very generous with me ultimately and let me stay for two weeks – not only in the retreat house, but actually in the same hallway – um, and to live among them and really share their life, which was, uh, just an incredibly unique experience and something that just, you know, absolutely changed my life.

RACHEL SZABO: During his two-week stay, Nathan learned about the Christian God and the Christian tradition, and he was really fascinated by it. One, because it had such ancient roots and it was still thriving, you know, all these years later. But two, because it allowed for things like mercy and forgiveness for its followers, that Nathan could not get things right sometimes and still be accepted.

NATHAN SCHNEIDER: This tradition became something I, I just fell in love with. And through that tradition, you know, I learned to fall in love with God. 

RACHEL SZABO: So Nathan would have loved to just stay at the monastery indefinitely, but he was going off to college. So Nathan left the monastery, went off to school, he found a church, continued to go, continued to learn about Christianity, and the next year he was baptized. Nathan had found what he believed and who he believed. It was a God-man named Jesus. And Nathan was really zealous about his newfound faith, but attending a secular college he started sticking out like a sore thumb. 

NATHAN SCHNEIDER: It kind of felt like a topic nobody wanted to talk about, but yet that I would kind of bring into spaces, um, you know, for one reason or another. It, it was an obsession of mine, uh, and, and I would bring it where, where I went.

RACHEL SZABO: Because he was so excited to talk about his faith, friends and classmates started asking Nathan about what he believed, and some people found his beliefs to be kind of strange, especially when Nathan said that he couldn’t participate in certain things like partying and drinking and drugs.

NATHAN SCHNEIDER: There would be moments as, you know, many Christians might experience in a non-Christian world where one has to say no to things, when one says, “No, I’m not gonna go there with you. You know, that’s, that’s against my beliefs.” And that of course would raise the question – “You know, wait, what are those beliefs? Why do you hold them? You know, are you crazy?” (laughs) Uh, and so I was very alone in, in my experience, and I’m constantly feeling on the defensive and having to explain myself to others and not really knowing how to do that. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, like I feel for the guy. You know, he’s gone off to college as his first time kind of out as an adult on his own, and now he’s got this, like, new set of beliefs that he’s really excited about, but everybody else thinks that he’s a little off his rocker. (laugh) You know, like, it’s like not the right chemistry to be super popular on campus. 

RACHEL SZABO: Yeah. And of course, you know, since he’s a pretty young believer at this point, all this constant questioning that he is getting starts making him think like, “Gosh, have I believed the right thing? You know, did I make the right decision becoming a Christian? Are my beliefs strange and nonsensical?” 

NATHAN SCHNEIDER: I was constantly questioning, you know, “Was I, was this really where I was called?” It was sleep-losing anxiety constantly. I mean, it was a very, very challenging period because, you know, it just, it just raised so many more questions than it answered. You know, as Augustine said, I’d become a question to myself. Everything felt like it was, it was up for grabs, and nothing really felt settled in so many respects. 

RACHEL SZABO: So Nathan wondered, you know, is there a way he could be sure that he had believed the right thing? You know, how could he have confidence in his newfound faith, and how could he show that confidence to those around him who were constantly questioning him? 

NATHAN SCHNEIDER: That word “proof” kind of landed in my head. 

RACHEL SZABO: So Nathan starts to think about proof, like maybe that’s what he needs. Maybe he just needs proof, undeniable evidence that the God of the Bible that he now believes in is real. 

JESSE EUBANKS: “Like if I could just find this one thing that everyone looks at and goes, ‘I cannot deny this truth.'” 

RACHEL SZABO: Yeah, “that’ll settle it for me.”



NATHAN SCHNEIDER: Okay. If I could just prove it, if I had a really good argument, maybe that would settle me. Maybe I would stop losing sleep. Maybe I would stop worrying about whether this, you know, great commitment I had made was the worst mistake of my life. 

RACHEL SZABO: So Nathan began a quest to prove the existence of God. He became a journalist of sorts, seeking out and talking with people on all sides – atheists, agnostics, evangelicals. He also watched countless YouTube hours of popular debaters at the time, so folks like New Atheist Richard Dawkins. 

RICHARD DAWKINS CLIP: The whole enterprise of evolutionary biology is to explain how you get prodigious complexity and design from virtually nothing.

RACHEL SZABO: And folks like Evangelical apologist William Lane Craig.

WILLIAM LANE CRAIG CLIP: But surely that doesn’t make sense. Out of nothing, nothing comes. So why does the universe exist instead of just nothing? Where did it come from? There must have been a cause which brought the universe into being.

RACHEL SZABO: Nathan spent years gathering evidence and arguments from all corners of philosophical and theological thought, looking to see if there is indeed undeniable proof that God is real. And in all his exploration, the thing that intrigued him the most was actually historical writings, proofs of God from eras long past. So this would be things like Thomas Aquinas’s five proofs that we talked about at the top of the episode. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay. Yeah, yeah. 

NATHAN SCHNEIDER: Particularly one that was important for me was, was from a medieval monk turned bishop named Anselm of Canterbury. It’s a very famous argument. Basic gist is that the very idea of God somehow actually proves that God must exist.

JESSE EUBANKS: Hold on. How does that work? 

RACHEL SZABO: Okay, yeah. 

JESSE EUBANKS: I could be like, “fairies must exist,” and therefore I’m saying fairies exist? 


JESSE EUBANKS: Like that doesn’t seem right. 

RACHEL SZABO: Yeah. Okay. So Anselm’s argument was this – that humans throughout the centuries have defined God as an unmatched supreme being and if that is the definition of God then he must exist because a God who actually exists would be greater than a made-up God who does not exist. So a real God by definition is more supreme than an imaginary God. 

JESSE EUBANKS: A real – okay, so hold on. A real God, a real God is by definition more supreme than an imaginary God. Okay. 

RACHEL SZABO: Right. So if we’re making God up, then he must actually be real because if God is a supreme being he would be greater than a made-up God. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, I’ll have to think on that one. 

RACHEL SZABO: Yeah. It can sound like a bit of a hazy argument for us today and not make a lot of sense.

JESSE EUBANKS: Right, yeah. 

RACHEL SZABO: But actually in the heyday of Greek philosophy, that argument carried a lot of weight. But here’s what’s interesting is that the argument itself was not what was captivating for Nathan.

NATHAN SCHNEIDER: When I actually read the text of his, of his argument, I realized, “Wow, this, it was full of this kind of love language for God.” And it made me realize, “Oh, this is not just an abstract argument. This is a love letter.” And I don’t think the argument can be understood apart from that love letter. That, that, that emotional quality of the experience is, is also part of what appears to be just a rational thing.

RACHEL SZABO: So Nathan saw basically that there was more behind Anselm’s proof than simple reasoning, that there was love for God and a desire for that God to be known, that there was reason but there was also emotion involved. 

JESSE EUBANKS: I’m thinking of even like the first story that we did as well as this one – they’re both kind of touching on this thing. There’s an ancient understanding of how do we come to believe and know something and that there are actually three components to it. The first one is a lot of what Nathan is exploring initially, which is like the intellect. It’s like, “Can I intellectually, in my thoughts, believe something? Like, does it, is it rational?” The second piece is, “Can in any way does it align with my experiences?” And then the third way is, “Can I make sense of this in terms of, like, my desire, my affections, my longings?” So there’s gotta be some sort of emotional resonance, like we’re not computers. And so proving something will have the most weight when it’s hitting all three of those areas.

RACHEL SZABO: And where does that come from? 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, it comes from just ancient Greek philosophy. 

RACHEL SZABO: So intellect, experience, and desire. 


RACHEL SZABO: Mmm. Yeah, so that was one historical text that really impacted Nathan. Another one was from a German philosopher named Hegel. 

NATHAN SCHNEIDER: And Hegel had this strange book on the, the proofs of God, and, and he does a really unusual thing there – is rather than try to land on a proof that, that settles the question once and for all, which is kind of what a lot of other people seem to do, Hegel saw the different arguments that people have developed over time as actually being connected to each other and revealing in different sequential moments different aspects of God. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Wait, so wait. What is he saying there? 

RACHEL SZABO: Okay, so basically he’s saying that all these proofs over the course of history are like looking at different angles of a diamond, that they’re all pointing to different aspects of the same thing and need to be viewed as a whole in order to get a more complete picture. So that one proof on its own is not enough to contain God.

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, so basically there’s not going to be this one airtight thing. It’s like you have to look at it as like a whole.


NATHAN SCHNEIDER: That to me made me realize, “Oh, okay, this is a story to tell. This is not just a quest for the perfect, precise argument. This is actually, you know, this is a progression. This is a, a narrative. This is a journey.” 

RACHEL SZABO: Yeah, and that was definitely true for Nathan. It was a journey. You know, his exploration to find the right proof took him 10 years, and he actually compiled this whole journey into a book called God in Proof, where he details everything he discovered from all the philosophers and the theologians and the YouTubers that he learned from. 

JESSE EUBANKS: So, what was his conclusion? I mean, 10 years of work – like what did this all lead to? Did he, did he find the proof that he was looking for?

RACHEL SZABO: Okay, so Nathan did ultimately come to a conclusion, but it didn’t come from where he expected.

NATHAN SCHNEIDER: You know, what settled the question for me personally really was not proof, um, hate to break it to you, um, spoiler. Uh, but, but it wasn’t a particular rational argument that enabled me to come into myself as a, as a Christian. Um, it, it was really community. It was, it was finding, you know, fellow Christians who, you know, where the spirit was, was very present.

RACHEL SZABO: So when he talks about the spirit being present, what he’s referring to is the verse in Matthew 18 where Jesus says, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” 


RACHEL SZABO: So it was being around other Christians, you know, doing the work of living out the Christian faith, being involved in things like caring for the poor, doing life with other believers – that is what finally settled the argument for him. Seeing God lived out through his people. 

NATHAN SCHNEIDER: You know, that’s what Jesus taught us to do. You know, he, he didn’t start his ministry by pronouncing, uh, you know, a rational argument from the, from the hilltop. He, he started by gathering friends. You know, seeing people really live their, their faith together, um, through their relationships with each other, you know, suddenly – not suddenly, but through that community – you know, the question of God no longer felt – you know, “does God exist?” – no longer felt like a question to me. It just felt so true, clear, and, and obvious, um, that that relationship and love are somehow at the root of, of, of everything that we experience.

JESSE EUBANKS: It’s really fascinating. There’s this movement – and we saw it in both stories – in which people start off with a certain, certain question – “Does God exist?” But there’s this moment where they shift from the, like, “Can I prove this as a cold, hard fact?” over and into something that’s just more transcendent, something that’s like, it’s more about meaning and purpose and beauty. Like there’s a sense in which they reach the end of measurement. You either have to go, “Nope, I’m not taking a dive” or “I am.” In both these stories, it’s like they reached this place where they’re like, “What is beyond these facts is so much more beautiful and compelling and moving than what’s behind me. I’m taking the dive.”

RACHEL SZABO: Yeah. Yeah, I think in a way it kind of goes back to what Thomas Aquinas was trying to do in his five proofs, is he was trying to merge this, like, sect of logic, reason, science and this sect of mystery and transcendence and supernatural and saying like, “Life is not about either/or. Life is about both/and.” 


RACHEL SZABO: So today Nathan is a media studies professor at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and he continues to be a faithful Christian. And questions about whether or not he’s believed in the right thing – they no longer worry him. And even though it wasn’t rational proofs that ultimately answered the question for Nathan, he wouldn’t say that proofs have no place. Instead, he sees them as ways to help us contemplate the complexity of God and to learn more about him. 

NATHAN SCHNEIDER: That so-called ontological argument of Anselm that I described earlier – that idea that the very possibility of God, the very idea of God, if you contemplate it deeply enough will disclose the reality of God’s existence – that, that kind of argument has in the years since been a reminder to me – am I taking the time to contemplate God with that kind of depth and commitment that Ansel did? Or, you know, arguments from the, the order and beauty or design of nature – you know, am I allowing myself to see the natural world as itself revealing of God’s love in the way that St. Francis did? Each has their little gift. Each has their, their reminder, um, their insistence, you know, that, that can help guide us in our ongoing relationships with God, even if we’re not quaking in our boots about whether God exists or not. 

JESSE EUBANKS: And it also really explains at another level, you know, this current movement where you just – I mean, in droves, people are leaving the Christian faith and it is in so many ways it’s because our beauty has been so deformed as the church lately, like the way that we have expressed it, like we’ve lacked grace, we’ve lacked community, we’ve lacked authenticity, we’ve lacked, you know, walking with Jesus faithfully. And so people are like, “Well, I’m gonna go towards the beauty,” and they’re not seeing the beauty in the church so they’re going to find the beauty elsewhere. 

RACHEL SZABO: Mmm. I think the thing that I find encouraging is that folks like Francis and Nathan – they’re in good company. You know, the Christian faith has always made room for skepticism. You know, you think about Thomas, one of Jesus’s own disciples, and after Jesus was raised from the dead, the other disciples told Thomas about it and Thomas was like, “Unless I see his hands and the mark of the nails and place my finger into the mark of the nails and place my hand into his side, I will not believe.”


RACHEL SZABO: And Thomas wanted proof. He wanted logical, physical proof. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, and then how do we see Jesus respond? Like he shows up when Thomas is around, and he tells him, “Put your finger here and see my hands and put out your hand and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” So like Jesus is not offended by our doubts or our desire for proof. He answers us. But he does also tell Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” So God is able to give us physical proof, but he also sometimes just gives us mystery. And the question we have to ask ourselves is – are we willing to still believe him in the midst of both?


JESSE EUBANKS: If you’ve benefited at all from this podcast, please help us out by leaving a review wherever it is that you listen to podcasts. Your review will help other people discover our show.


JESSE EUBANKS: Special thanks to our interviewee for this episode – Nathan Schneider. Also, a special thanks to the Language of God podcast for Francis Collins’s audio. You can find a link to his full interview in the show notes. 

RACHEL SZABO: Our senior producer and host is Jesse Eubanks. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Our co-host today is Rachel Szabo, who’s also our media director and producer and who the other day started talking back to me and I warned her I would enforce a strict dress code including polo shirts and slacks. 

NATHAN SCHNEIDER: It was sleep-losing anxiety constantly. 

RACHEL SZABO: Anna Tran is our audio engineer. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Music for today’s episode comes from Lee Rosevere, Poddington Bear, and Blue Dot Sessions. Theme music and commercial music by Murphy DX. 

RACHEL SZABO: If you want a hands-on experience of missions in our modern times, come serve with Love Thy Neighborhood. We offer internships for young adults ages 18 to 30 through the areas of service, community, and discipleship. You’ll grow in your faith and your life skills. Learn more at 

JESSE EUBANKS: Which of these was a neighbor to the man in need? The one who showed mercy. Jesus tells us, “Go, and do likewise.”


This podcast is only made possible by generous donors like you!


Hear Francis Collins’ full interview.

Nathan Schneider’s book: God in Proof.


Hosted by Jesse Eubanks and Rachel Szabo.

Written and produced by Rachel Szabo.

Audio editing and mixing by Anna Tran.

Jesse Eubanks is our senior producer.

Music by Lee Rosevere, Podington Bear, Blue Dot Sessions and Murphy DX.