Arguing for or against God’s existence

Just a quick thought about something I will write up in a lot more detail later.

I’ve been reading lots of philosophical arguments about the existence of God this past year — some arguing that God does exist, others arguing that God does not exist.

All of them start from the assumption that we are unbiased, rational observers able to decide on the basis of the evidence we find whether or not God exists. But if Christianity is true, that isn’t really the case.

We have the God-given ability to reason logically (usually), but logical arguments are only as strong as their premises, and premises are only as reliable as the conceptual framework within which they are articulated, and those frameworks are anything but unbiased.

In 1 Cor 2 Paul said:

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.  (1 Cor 2:14).

I think the word “appraised” there refers to the fact that our intuition about what is good and bad and right and wrong and real and fake and true and false is gravely distorted by the fall. We have an anti-God bias built into us. We can reason about things, but we can’t properly judge the likelihood of the premises or the significance and relevance of our conclusions.

Earlier, Paul said:

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. (1 Cor 1:18-21.)

Our unbelief is a moral problem, not an intellectual one. I’m not sure how to reconcile this with the philosophical practice of looking for good arguments for or against the existence of God.

I’ve heard that a fideist is someone who believes there is no rational proof of God’s existence; that we just have to take it on faith. I’m not sure I’m a fideist. I think there are good reasons to believe in God, but I believe we are incapable of seeing them without the grace of God to open our hearts to them. Is that fideism? I’m not sure.

2 thoughts on “Arguing for or against God’s existence

  1. ” As I understand it, from a philosophical perspective that makes the public (secular) justification of Christian belief a matter of consistency and coherency; from an apologetic perspective I am generally more willing to use arguments to defend the coherence of Christian faith on its own terms, and to invite others to witness it and to make such use of the means of grace as they are able, rather than to attempt to argue from [nothing] to God, Christ, and the Bible.”

    I agree.

    The most aggressive atheists I encounter tend to use the following argument:
    1. If we can explain everything without God then it is irrational to believe in him.
    2. We can explain everything without God (at least as well as we can explain it with God).
    3. Therefore it is irrational to believe in God.

    From their point of view, Christianity must not be merely coherent. It must compel belief (in unbelievers) or it should be rejected.

  2. Hey, Kevin! I don’t think that you’re describing fideism, or at least not either of the two objectionable kinds I’ve seen (the kind in which believing *constitutes* the truth of the believed in, or the kind in which the believed-in is valued *because* it elicits belief). As you say, the idea that grace is necessary for us to see God, and that we are already one down on grace because of our fallenness, is basic Christianity. Grace of creation *should* be enough to bring us to God, says Romans 1, but we are already complicit in the whole world’s *rejection* of that gracious relationship and knowledge–natural revelation doesn’t work because we’re against it. Grace of redemption, or special revelation, breaks into that rejection and, if we cooperate with it, leads us into a special relationship with Christ which also gradually restores our ability to put natural revelation, or grace of creation, or Reason, to its proper use. As I understand it, from a philosophical perspective that makes the public (secular) justification of Christian belief a matter of consistency and coherency; from an apologetic perspective I am generally more willing to use arguments to defend the coherence of Christian faith on its own terms, and to invite others to witness it and to make such use of the means of grace as they are able, rather than to attempt to argue from [nothing] to God, Christ, and the Bible.

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