As I said before, I am delighted to have a thoughtful and intelligent Christian reviewing my posts about Geisler and Turek’s book, I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST. Though she makes it fairly plain that she would like to believe that my posts are nothing more than “the very atheistic fear of the truth that Geisler and Turek… predicted as a response to their book,” she seems to be honest and sincere enough to look at the evidence. It gives me great pleasure, therefore, to explain to her exactly why I believe that Geisler and Turek are misrepresenting the facts of the matter, and how she herself can verify whether or not I’m saying things that are consistent with real-world truth. Let’s start with her presuppositions.
It is an all-too-common fallacy to presuppose the nonexistence of God and miracles, call it all “superstition” and interpret the evidence from there. However, it is a fallacy. To be truly, honestly objective requires admitting the possibility of God until that possibility can be ruled out. And we have yet to find ANYTHING that rules out the possibility of God.
This is a common misconception, and one that can be addressed without resorting to the obvious parallels regarding the “possibility” of a real Santa, a real Vishnu, or a real Flying Spaghetti Monster.
First of all, let’s dispense with the misconception that you have to know everything in order to know that God is not real. “God,” as a word, refers to a concept that means something to people. That means that people must be able to know something about God, because if God were to exist entirely outside of all human perception and experience, there would be no way for us to formulate the concept of God. When we ask whether or not God exists, therefore, we have already dispensed with the possibility that the term “God” refers to something so far outside of human experience that no atheist could possibly tell whether it was true or not.
Since “God,” as a meaningful term, refers to something that must lie within the bounds of common human perception and experience, all that remains is to determine whether “God” is part of objective human experience, or merely subjective human experience. This boils down to the practical problem of determining whether or not the things people believe about God are consistent with real-world truth.
The one universal premise that underlies all rational systems of thought is the premise that truth is consistent with itself. We know this by observation: real-world truth is consistent with itself, and in fact the only way we can detect error is by finding something that is inconsistent with real-world truth. Thus, the core and foundation necessary for knowing the truth is knowing that the truth is consistent with itself, and that whatever is not consistent with itself or with real-world truth is untrue.
Now, the one truth that we can all verify, individually, by direct observation, is that God does not show up in real life. This is an Unavoidable Fact with an Inescapable Consequence. But we’ll get to that in a moment.
Jaya seems to have noticed the Unavoidable Fact that God does not show up in real life. She writes:
If we are going to cite lack of tangible evidence, as many atheists do, we must also rule out the existence [of] gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces… Those, like God, are not directly observable – we can only observe their effects, direct or indirect, and infer from that the forces behind them.
Most atheists I know are perfectly happy with indirect observations, because the truth is consistent with itself, and that means we can trust indirect, verifiable observations. But I digress. God is “not directly observable,” she says. He does not show up in real life. This Unavoidable Fact, however, is inconsistent with the Bible stories, because the Bible is not about people inferring the existence of an unobservable God. The Bible story is about Incarnation, about feeding 5,000, about Resurrection, about parting the Red Sea, about the shekinah glory. The Bible is about God showing up in real life, and yet when we look at real life, we find that God does not, in fact, show up.
This Unavoidable Fact has an Inescapable Consequence: because God does not show up in real life, men cannot have faith in Him. Their only option is to put their faith in what other men say about Him. All Christian faith, in God’s absence, is second-hand faith at best, because if what men say about God happens to be false, it’s not God who has deceived men, but only other men who have said the things that are not true. In God’s absence, the only source for faith is FISH: Fantasy, Intuition, Superstition and Hearsay, the four fallible sources which are the only source we have for information about God. God does not show up to give us anything or anyone else to put our faith in.
When we look at the Gospel story, we see how very very inconsistent this is. According to the Gospel, God became Incarnate, took on human form to walk among us, teach us, and have fellowship with us. He did this because He wanted to. Not because man hunted Him down, or detected Him scientifically (as Geisler and Turek try to do) but because HE took the initiative out of love for us and a desire to be with us. In fact, He not only wanted to be with us forever, He wanted it so badly that He was willing to die for us, to eliminate the sin barrier that kept us apart. And then He raised Himself from the dead as proof that the barrier was gone.
But the most fundamental and obvious consequence of this story is that God ought to be here with us, and ought to have been here with us since the (allegedly) Empty Tomb. The Gospel story tells us that God is not only able to be here with us, and has not only removed the barrier that kept us apart, but that He wants to be here, He’s the initiator, the driving force, the active member of the relationship. And yet He does not show up in real life, and the field of apologetics has arisen to try and think up excuses for why not.
You can rationalize any story that fails to fit the facts. Rationalizations are easy, and endless. But putting a patch on a hole only emphasizes the fact that you have a hole that needs patching. And once you start rationalizing, you can’t stop, because each new rationalization only produces more inconsistencies with the real world, with the original story, and/or with prior rationalizations. For example, you can try and excuse God’s absence by saying that God does want to be here, but there’s some constraining factor that prevents Him from giving people solid evidence of His existence–as though that would violate their faith or free will or something.
If there were some factor preventing God from providing us with tangible evidence of His existence, however, then not only does it contradict the idea of God’s omnipotence, it contradicts the whole premise of Geisler and Turek’s book. As Jaya tells us,
The entire premise – of the WHOLE BOOK – is to show that, by studying the real world, one comes to the rational conclusion that God does, in fact, exist. By reason alone.
It is inconsistent to claim both that there’s some factor which prevents God from showing up in real life, and that at the same time God has shown up, even indirectly, in real life. But if God can leave tangible proof of His existence, as Geisler and Turek claim He has done, then there’s no reason He can’t go all the way and show up to participate in that two-way, face-to-face relationship that He allegedly wanted bad enough to die for (and allegedly practiced many times in Biblical days). It’s self-contradictory to claim, on the one hand, that God has acted to make faith unnecessary, and on the other to claim that His actions are constrained by the need to keep us dependent upon faith.
I am prepared to show that, on every point that can be raised, the real-world facts are more consistent with the conclusion that the Gospel is a man-made superstition than with the belief that the Gospel is a true account of a real God and His dealings with men. Christians can attribute things to God, like the origin of life or the configuration of the cosmos, or the unexpected happenstances of daily life. They can even call that “evidence,” though they can’t demonstrate or even describe any verifiable connection between God and the things they give Him credit for. But they can’t change the fact that God ought to be showing to participate in genuine, two-way, personal relationships with each of us—especially with the “lost”—and does not do so. This is a major inconsistency between the Gospel and the real-world truth, and that’s just not the way things ought to be. Truth is consistent with itself, but the Bible is inconsistent both with itself and with the real world. That’s really all we need to know about the Christian God.