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But… but… but… how would you know that?

I am always fascinated how similar themes emerge all at once from different places. Both on my forum and in two separate email correspondences I am dealing with a similar issue. Essentially it is this: just because you have the proposition that there is a supernatural entity, how do you think you know anything about it; and, couldn’t you be mistaken about what you do know and not have anyway to independently verify that knowledge? I cannot share my email correspondence, but you can see here two places on my forum, here and here, where the conversation is bounding on this issue. My contention in many respects is that the things to be known must be learned by the self-revelation of the entity and because of the definition of God (two items in particular, his transcendence and immanence) there is no other way. One can see how this question would arise.

What is interesting in these instances is that the argument emerges even if it seems that God has revealed himself, by miracles or whatever, this is not enough to compel them to Christian theism. In fact, in one email correspondence, it is explicitly agreed in the argument that the miracles really did happen as the Bible described. Now, I’m one who tends to think that people can have legitimate questions about God and his nature, but when faced with individuals who are even willing to concede that Jesus walked on the water, rose from the dead, etc, and yet still think they are rational in withholding their assent to Christianity, one begins to suspect that there is something else going on.

The fact is that the question of how to independently verify God’s self-revelation to be good (or any other aspect of his nature) if he is himself the full sum of all that is real is an entirely different issue then whether or not the historical evidence affirms Jesus and his deeds. What the honest searcher should notice in such approaches is that the truth is that for many mainstream atheists, the evidence is completely irrelevant. One wouldn’t get that impression given how much arguing happens about that evidence, but when skeptics are willing to admit the evidence but still deny the Christian’s conclusion, that should tell you something.

I said that the two issues are different, and one big reason why they are different is because the fact that we are limited in our ability to independently verify God’s claims belongs to a class of concerns that exists whether we are talking about God or not. For example, it is always conceivable that our senses themselves mislead us. How can we verify what our senses generate for us if we are restricted to using our senses to perform the verification? At the universal level, it is always possible that our perception of matter and energy is skewed, ala the Matrix and Men in Black.

You could only know if you were in the Matrix if you could get out of the Matrix, and if you got out of the Matrix you could still wonder if you were in another Matrix, so on and so forth. So you see, these problems do not disappear just because you posit that God is the final regress of the issue. If not God, the universe itself becomes your final regress, and ultimately you can say that your own perception of reality is the final regress. If we cannot solve these problems apart from considerations of God, we certainly can’t hold it against Christian theism that it poses some of the same dilemmas.

And how do we escape from these dilemmas? Well, solipsism is certainly possible but it is possible no matter what. As a common denominator, we just have to allow it to cancel out and take our senses and reason as we find them, more or less posit the existence of an objective world out there and accept that we perceive it, even if sometimes in a hazy fashion. Based on these assumptions, we then begin gathering evidences for what the real nature of that objective world really is. One of the questions we invariably arrive at is whether or not there is more to the world than our senses and reason can perceive, not subjectively but objectively, not naturally, but supernaturally.

For this, the only thing you can do is try to examine the evidence the best you can without assuming in advance that the supernatural is not real, and, perhaps more importantly, crafting the structure of your inquiry so that you tailor your expectations of the evidence to be appropriate to the claim… ie, one does not hope to use the scientific method, bound as it is to methodological naturalism, to directly detect God, who is by Christian definition the sustainer of the natural system we are in, immanent within it but transcendent as well.

If in the course of this investigation the evidence appears to point towards the existence of such an entity and some of its attributes you are led to the same regress where it is yet conceivable that you are being deceived, you have only arrived at the problem that you had to set aside before you launched your exploration of reality in the first place.

Thus, the divide between skeptics and Christians begins to become clear. Christians root their entire basis for faith in evidence of the world as best as it can be sorted, and pin their hope on the resurrection of a man who claimed to be God and did something to prove it that by all available measures is impossible for a mortal. (1 Cor 15) In the final analysis, it is the Christian that cares for evidence, not the skeptic. If you talk to a skeptic long enough or talk to enough skeptics, you learn that in many cases the evidence is completely irrelevant. We who believe, like Antony Flew, that one must follow the evidence wherever it leads, need not be overly concerned with the objections of those who wouldn’t be pleased even if they had their evidence in hand.

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  1. […] atheists fail to take them into account.  I can’t go into it here.  Get a taste by reading this and […]

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