Thursday, April 27, 2017

Some Atheists Will Never Believe In God

The epistemological objection of many atheists is that there is no concrete evidence for God’s existence. They argue, “If only I could see God, I would believe in HIM. Since no one can sense God with the five senses, belief in God is unreasonable and unjustified.”
Although, superficially, this objection appears reasonable, there are several problems with this objection. Christian Philosopher J.P Moreland, presents the following arguments as to why this objection of the atheists cannot seriously challenge the theistic claim of God’s existence:[1]

Self Refuting Proposition

The proposition, “I can believe in only what I can see” is self-refuting, since that very proposition cannot be seen. But some may argue that the sentence expressing that proposition can be seen, hence the said proposition is valid.
However, the proposition expressed by the sentence, “I can believe in only what I can see” is not identical to that sentence. The sentence is of a particular length and a particular color, which is not true of the proposition itself. Hence, the proposition is self-refuting, thus it is invalid.

Existence Of Non-Empirical Entities

Our thoughts exist. But none of us have seen our thoughts. Thus it would be preposterous to determine that thoughts do not exist, since thoughts are invisible.
Similarly other non-empirical entities such as numbers, laws of logic, values, and propositions do exist. Positing the non-existence of non-empirical entities based on their invisibility is question-begging. Therefore, since we affirm the existence of non-empirical entities, we could also affirm the existence of God.

Category Fallacy

Entities belonging to a specific category cannot be assigned the properties of entities belonging to another category. For instance, sound notes (musical notes) cannot have the property of ‘color’ (i.e. sound notes cannot be colored). It would be a category fallacy to assign color to sound notes. Hence an objection that we should not believe in sound notes because they are not colored commits a category fallacy.
Likewise, the objection that one should believe that something exists only if it can be sensed commits a category fallacy. God, by definition, is an infinite Spirit. God, being a spiritual being, cannot possess material / sensory qualities. Hence ascribing sensory qualities to God is to commit a category fallacy.

Numinous Intuition

J.P Moreland argues that there could be other ways of seeing apart from sensory seeing. For instance, some form of numinous intuition could enable one to see nonphysical objects. Intuition in this context means “being directly aware of” as opposed to a mere thought of about something.
In numinous experiences – direct awareness of a holy, good person – people claim to see God. Numinous experiences do exist, for it can be proven that numinous perception is analogous to sensory perception.[2]

Postulation Of Unseen Entities

Consider the existence of other minds. We do not see minds as we see a material object. But since we know that our bodily behavior is a result of our mind, we infer that there are other minds. So we postulate the presence of other minds, such as ours, because other people are embodied persons (and not robots), whose bodily behavior is certainly analogous to ours.
Similarly, one can infer the existence of God from HIS effects in a way similar to that in which we infer the existence of other minds or theoretical entities. Therefore, belief in God is valid.

Would Atheists Believe God Even If HIS Existence Was Obvious

God has indeed offered sufficient evidences for HIS existence. Presence of many who believe in God is an adequate proof.
However, the big question is this, if God’s existence is as plain as a nose on your face, would atheists believe in God? (I have borrowed Dr. William Lane Craig’s phraseology.)
William Lane Craig elaborates this thought, “Some atheists, unsatisfied with the amount of evidence that we have, have argued that if God existed then he would have prevented the unbelief of the world by making his existence just starkly obvious. For example, he could have inscribed on every atom in the universe “Made by God.” Or he could have placed a neon cross in the heavens saying “Jesus Saves.” In that case God’s existence would be starkly apparent to everyone and thereby he would have prevented the unbelief in the world.”[3]
Dr. Craig quotes Christian philosopher Paul Moser to emphasize that it need not be God’s prerogative to prevent unbelief in the world for a simple reason that God’s sole desire is not to prove HIS existence but to motivate man to love HIM.[4]
Furthermore, the Bible presents several instances to prove that belief in God’s existence need not necessarily translate into a love relationship between man and God.
For instance, God personally revealed HIS existence to Adam and Eve. So Adam and Eve believed in God’s existence and knew HIM personally. However, they disobeyed or rejected God when the devil tempted Eve.
Consider another instance; the devil believes in God’s existence (James 2: 19) but the devil opposes God because of its rejection of God. The devil does not desire a saving relationship with God.
Some atheists would continue to argue that if God were to perform miracles, they would believe in HIM. Sadly, the Bible negates this thought.
The fact that man will continue to reject God even if God were to make HIS presence as plain as a nose on your face through the miraculous is depicted in the parable of Rich man and Lazarus, “Of course, in order to believe in God (that is, to trust in him, to know him) you’ve got to first believe that God exists. But if you reflect on it, there is really no reason at all to think that if God were to make his existence starkly obvious that more people would freely come to know him and his salvation than actually do. Mere showmanship will not bring about a change of heart. That is the lesson of Jesus’ parable in Luke 16:30-31 where you will remember Abraham tells the Rich Man in Hades who asks him to send someone from the dead to his family members so that they will believe and not come to this place, and Abraham says, Even if someone will rise from the dead, if they won’t listen to Moses and the Scriptures neither would they believe in that case. Just seeing a miraculous event isn’t going to bring about heart change if these people are closed to God and his Word.”[5]
The Old Testament is replete with the miraculous (parting of the sea, pillar of cloud and fire, plagues in Egypt etc.). However, these miracles did not initiate a love relationship between God and Israelites. Even after witnessing these miracles, the Israelites continued to reject and disobey God.
Therefore, we could reasonably believe that even if God were to reveal HIS existence in a starkly obvious manner, the deceptively adroit man would discover reasons to reject God and to not love HIM, “So if God were to inscribe his name on every atom in the universe, or place a neon cross in the sky, people might well believe that he exists, but how can we be confident that this would lead to a greater love of God and knowledge of God? Perhaps over time people would begin to chafe under these brazen advertisements of God’s existence and even come to resent him for such in-your-face effrontery. In fact, we just don’t really have any way of knowing that in a world of free creatures in which God’s existence is as plain as the nose on your face that the number or the percentage of people who come to love him and to know and experience his salvation is any greater than that in the actual world where, remember, the actual world includes not simply the past and the present but also the future. But then it seems to me the claim that if God existed he would make his existence more evident or starkly obvious just has little or no warrant.”[6]


[1] Scaling the Secular City A Defense of Christianity, J.P Moreland, 1987, Baker Book House Company, p226-228.
[2] J.P Moreland offers several arguments to posit numinous perception as exhibiting the same features that characterize sensory perception and he also presents seven tests to assert the credibility of numinous intuition. (Scaling the Secular City A Defense of Christianity, J.P Moreland, 1987, Baker Book House Company, p237-240.)
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.

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