(Investigator 136, 2011
should hardly begrudge
anyone who demands some form of proof before they believe in God. Who
would spend a large amount of money on something they are not convinced
will be worth it? Or trust themselves on a life and death issue to
someone they are steeped in doubt about? In many areas of life we often
seek for evidence to reassure us we are not deceived, or that what we
think is true is actually true. Proof is indeed the catalyst that often
swings us from skepticism to belief.
need to be able to look for reasonable answers in the face of doubt and
uncertainty. He quotes the late physicist, Richard Feynman, as
observing that there "is no learning without having to pose a question.
And a question requires doubt...most of your actions are based on
incomplete knowledge and you really don't know what it is all about, or
what the purpose of the world is." (#134, 20-21)
natural to ask
questions about the existence of God. Yet for the person of ‘faith'
this looking for evidence can seem to dishonor the character of God. We
should not demand a perfect, infinite Being prove its existence to us.
To which some may respond, well, why should we trust a perfect Being if
we are skeptical such a Being actually exists? Trust in what? Are
reasonable, rational human beings simply to be reduced to blind faith
after all? What is the great crime in atheists, skeptics, and doubters
asking for some kind of evidence God exists?
some, the answer to
this question is quite simple. There is no God, they would assert, and
so he cannot provide proof of his existence, and nor can anyone else.
Isn't this the very point of why so many have not found sufficient
reasons to believe in God? This is why it is often frustrating that
some Christians seem content to uncritically accept things by faith.
They often do not even try to have evidence to back up their views
about God, or seem to feel the need of it. Potter again notes that even
Jesus Christ affirmed people who would believe in him without requiring
proof – "blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed"
(John 20: 29). To which Bob marvels that it is only the atheists who
appear to require evidence! (#134, 22). This echoes Dawkins'
displeasure on the view of a President of a New Jersey historical
society, who had stated: "As everyone knows religion is based on Faith,
not knowledge" (Dawkins 2006, 16). Or again, Harris asserts that "we
convince ourselves that our beliefs…can float entirely free of reason
and evidence" (Harris 2005, 17).
thinking people long
for conclusive evidence. Mysteries exist to be solved, theories exist
to be tested, claims exist to be substantiated. To seek and not find is
a sure path to disillusionment. The human mind and heart can find a
plethora of questions and wonders, quests and discoveries that promise
to reveal answers that convey new significance into our world. It is at
the top of Mount Everest that the victory is celebrated. It is the
depth of the questions that have the potential for the highest
understanding. And God is the biggest question of all.
does God appear so
hesitant to give us the proof many are seeking? Yet perhaps there is
another way of looking at this question. That is, by asking another one.
we did, in fact,
discover 100% certified scientific evidence that God did exist, what
would we do with it? Would we be satisfied with the knowledge we have
finally got the answer? Would we then move on to the next intriguing
scientific question to be answered? Would it perhaps spark further
investigation to see which religion came closest to the scientific data
in their understanding of God, so we would not only have reliable
evidence that God existed, but be able to extrapolate which religion
was the right one after all? Or would we put God "into the dock" as C S
Lewis wrote, and call him to account for the atrocities we have found
God guilty of allowing or causing? Would the great Case of Humanity
Versus God finally have its day in court?
wrote: "The ancient
man approached God…as the accused person approaches his judge. For the
modern man the roles are reversed. He is the judge: God is in the
dock…if God should have a reasonable defence for being the god who
permits war, poverty and disease, he is ready to listen to it…the
important thing is that man is on the bench and God in the dock" (Lewis
we are in the
position to judge an infinite Being from a finite perspective, would we
seek to convince God that outdated forms of morality and truth need a
good overhaul through the mix of a new relativism and tolerance? Now
that God has finally stopped ‘hiding' would we demand he finally ‘get
with the program'? Namely, ours.
we be caught up
short with this approach, discovering that an infinite, moral Being was
not quite so easy to take to task after all? Our consciences, for
one thing, might suddenly take on a new sensitivity and the issue of
what is really good or bad (and not simply convenient for us) might
resurface as issues that were not so easy to sweep under a politically
sort of thing could
be viewed by many as a fast track back from the liberating progress
society has achieved in the last hundred years or so. Indeed, this
finding evidence for the existence of God could upset the apple-cart
sure we actually
want to find such evidence? Isn't ignorance bliss, as they say? Isn't
the freedom to choose our way and make our own moral decisions the kind
of freedom we are most comfortable with? Isn't even the freedom to
doubt the existence of God the kind of freedom that lets us feel we are
our own persons? No one wants to be bludgeoned into some form of moral
servitude. So how might incontrovertible evidence that a perfect, moral
God exists affect our sense of personal freedom? Would we then feel we
were going to be held to account?
we knew God did
indeed exist, would we feel we had any choice in the matter?
it is that God
does not force his presence upon us because he has chosen not to
overwhelm our dignity or freedom; to allow that our choices do matter
and that we are entitled to them. By not providing absolute proof of
his existence we are actually being treated with respect, not disdain.
As Lewis again has remarked: "When the author walks on the stage the
play is over…God is going to invade alright…this time it will be God
without disguise…either irresistible love or irresistible horror to
every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. There is
no use saying you are choosing to lie down when it has become
impossible to stand up…it will be the time when we discover which side
we really have chosen" (Lewis 1969, p. 123).
the time of God's
"persuasion", not of forcing or coercing. The apostle Paul under house
arrest in Rome spent his days "trying to persuade" his listeners and
"some were persuaded by the things spoken, but others would not
believe" (Acts 28: 23, 24).
choice not to be
persuaded is a freedom that remains ours. But if it is true that there
is a God and that this God allows us the freedom to reject him, then
though we are fully persuaded no such God could exist, we may still
find we are simply operating in the freedom that very God has given to
us. There is still no "safety", and we may yet be taken by surprise.
Yes, some might acknowledge, and the religious believers may be taken
by surprise by the ‘fallacy' of their own dogmatic assertions! Indeed,
just as some skeptics may be busily courting their own dogmatic
existence of God
is to have any real meaning to us then it serves us well to remain open
to all avenues of understanding. Science and philosophy will continue
to ask their questions, theology will endeavour to shape a perception
of the divine. But how will the marshalling of the evidence and the
arguments be heard? Will they hit closed walls or minds and hearts
seeking to understand? Jesus said we must come with the receptivity of
children (Luke 18:17), which can ruffle, even insult, our adult pride.
Yet that pride may close us off from encountering more than we know.
Dawkins, Richard 2006, The
God Delusion, Bantam Press, London.
Harris, Sam 2005, The End
of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason, W. W. Norton, New
Lewis, C S 1969, A Mind
Awake An Anthology of C S Lewis, Clyde S Kilby (ed)., Harcourt,
Brace & World, Inc,. New York.
Lewis, C S 1979, God in
the Dock, Collins, Great Britain.