by Matt Slick
Answering the question of how we can know God is real and not just a fictional character in the Bible is inherently difficult because it deals with the subjective opinions of people. What would constitute sufficient information or evidence to determine that God is real can vary between people. Thus, a critic of Christianity can reject each answer as being insufficient--because it doesn't satisfy his subjective preferences for determining what to believe regarding the God of Christianity.
Some critics want a more concrete methodology for determining God's existence, such as experimentation, repeatability, observance, etc. Of course, ultimately this is a subjective criterion because it is still based on the individual's preferences. Also, how do we know that experimentation, repeatability, etc., is the right way to determine that God exists? Is there an experimental methodology for determining that experimental methodologies are the right way to determine that God exists? Or, are the person's requirements subjectively derived? If so, why should we respond to them?
Biblically speaking, we don't determine that the God of the Bible is real. We discover that he is real. God is not the same thing as an object in the universe that is hidden on a planet, floating around in interstellar space, or hidden between atoms. He is different from the universe and the things in it. Normally speaking, to determine something's existence means we find it or produce an experiment to test its existence or develop a methodology by which we can verify if something is or is not there. But again, this is an approach based on a materialistic worldview that seeks to determine something's existence by experimentation on physical things and their characteristics. What makes this method the right one to use?
But some might say that the immaterial God should have evidence for his existence in the material world. Otherwise, why believe in him? But that doesn't help because how would you distinguish between a God who can be detected through repeatable experimentation based on the laws of physics and the physical universe itself that exhibits those laws? If the experiment produces repeatability, who's to say that the experimenters will conclude that God exists or just say that they don't understand a new physical phenomenon? Again, it's all too subjective.
If the God of the Bible exists, then . . .
If the God of the Bible exists, then he exists in a way that is different from the universe. After all, he created it. I am writing this article (creating it), and I exist differently than it does. The article depends on my existence--not me on its existence. Doing an experiment on the word patterns and repeatability of style would not prove that there's an actual person named "Matt Slick" who wrote it. Is there an experiment that can determine my existence based upon what is found in an article? Or, will the subjectivity of the examiner conclude that "Matt Slick" does not exist even though the article says it is written by me? One may agree I'm real where another one may not. Again, we are talking about subjectivity because how a person interprets evidence is subject to that person's worldview and subjective preferences.
If the God of the Bible exists, then he is independent of the universe, transcendent, and answers to no one. Therefore, unless an experiment can be devised based on materialistic principles that conclusively prove there's a non-material transcendent being outside the universe (which is problematic as mentioned above), then we are left with the conclusion that the only way to know God exists is if he discloses himself.
Biblically, the process for determining whether God is real is to trust the work of Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. He discloses himself to those who seek him in response to the conviction of the Holy Spirit upon them where people recognize their sinfulness and also their need for being delivered from the lawful consequences of breaking God's law.