Boy, I have my work cut out for me on this post. In the last edition, the focus was on prayer. We found that prayer is indeed reliable but it is not the object of the atheists’ demand as the request suggested. Basically, assurance that prayer works comes in the assurance that God hears you; prayer is a communication tool not a healing device. At any rate, the request was satisfied.

As we continue examining “If God Would: ”, we move on to the comment made by Lee, “If he appeared to me. Not in a drunken state, but face to face…”. Let’s be real for a moment: that. would. be. AWESOME! No, seriously—totally epic! However, there are a couple inherent problems with this request. Before we can ask God to show his face to Lee, or anyone else seeking the face of God, we should first ask, “What does God look like?”What does God look like?.
It’s a fair question—especially for Lee and his cohorts. How is anyone to claim God hasn’t shown up without an idea of what God looks like? How does Lee know God hasn’t shown up and he just didn’t recognize him? Or, better question, can God actually show up? God says in the Bible, “…you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” (Exod 33:20).

I suppose their is a rational argument to be inserted here: If God is all-powerful AND he can’t do something (namely, show himself face-to-face with Lee), then he is not all powerful; he has limitations. This is a false dichotomy. For example, it is not my lack of strength which prevents me from stealing candy from a baby. Similarly, it is not God’s lack of ability preventing the event from transpiring. Rather, it is his love of you, Lee (and anyone else reading this). Anyone who has ever glimpsed the sun on a shiny day knows their are limits to the human eye’s ability to see bright objects. Therefore, it is not God’s inability, but ours. “Can’t he show himself in a way we can see him?”, you may retort. Yes! But, that does not satisfy the condition of the request. If God showed himself through a loving neighbor, or a friendly blog writer *wink*, would he not be dismissed? So, we must address the request inside the limits of human abilities.

Well this is problematic.

Lee’s request seems impossible. I will dissect more of this dilemma in a bit, but before I do, I want to examine two people who have encountered God.  The first is David.

He was a young man when we first read about him. He was the youngest and was left behind to take care of the family farm when his older brothers were called to military service. This was a frightening time everyone. Much of the community was involved in the war—it was just over the mountains. The neighboring forces were advancing. David could hear the war cries from the field. But David was young, ignorant, and naïve, but also bold, courageous, and trusting. So without thinking about consequences, David joined his brothers on the battlefield, perched on the hills staring at the impressiveness of the encroaching warriors. They were outnumbered; they were out-sized; they were afraid—but not David.

In his youthful folly, David sought the commander of the army, the king (Saul). “Why aren’t we attacking?”, he asked; “Isn’t God on our side?”

As the story plays out, David rose to the occasion and saved the Israelite’s from the tribesmen of Gath (Philistines). David put his hope and his trust in God and was credited with saving God’s people. The people would go on to sing praises to David, “Saul has killed his thousands, but David his tens of thousands.”[i] God showed up big time in David’s life (at least according to the Bible) and David became known as, “a man after God’s own heart.”[ii]

Given the closeness of David and God, it should be at least a little surprising to find out this is the same David who wrote in the Psalms 13 & 22 (and many others), “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?”(Ps 13:1-2). And again, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.” (Ps 22:1-2). Certainly of all the OT characters, David would not plead for God to show himself. Certainly David would not be desiring for God to ‘show his face’. But he did.

Why?

There are many theories why David wrote these words, but they are all irrelevant to the case I am presenting. This is not the place where I claim biblical authority. What I am showing here is that desiring to see God is a problem that CAN be reconciled. David went on to write in those same Psalms, “But I will trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.”(Ps 13:5), and “When you appear for battle, you will burn them up as in a blazing furnace.” (Ps 22:9a). David wanted to see God, but he had enough evidence, enough experience, and enough wisdom to know that God was still in control—when God was ready, he would come. God shows up on His time, not ours.

Doubting ThomasThe second character I want to showcase is Jesus’ disciple, Thomas. It was after the resurrection; the disciples went to Thomas and said, “Jesus is alive!” Thomas replied, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25). Jesus did show himself to Thomas and said, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and believed.” (v 29). With this idea in mind, there really is no reason to assume God will just show up and make a personal appearance. With this in mind, God must be assuming there is adequate evidence that one can believe without seeing. After-all, Thomas wasn’t criticized about needing to see until after the profession was given by his friends—people he (should have) trusted.

Therefore, based solely on biblical understanding of God, no one can see God’s face, a longing to see God’s face is an acceptable position to hold, yet there is enough evidence that will suffice for not actually seeing the face of God. From this perspective, I could call it a draw. But, hey, I live in America—we hate ties!

Recently I met a friend named Paul. Paul shared with me a concern. “If God has decided the level of proof that he is willing to give, but created my brain to require more, then I guess I’m predestined to hell.” Paul makes a great point, one that bothered me as I researched why God doesn’t/can’t/hasn’t/won’t show his face to those who deeply desire to believe. That’s when I came across William Lane Craig talking about morality[iii]. WLC presents this argument:

  1. If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist
  2. Objective moral values do exist
  3. Therefore, God exists.

(Hang on Lee and Paul, don’t get ahead of me) I lay this out for reference not as proof text that God exists (though if you were honest, objective morality certainly holds weight). During WLC’s defense he laid out several objections raised to his premise #2. Some of those are (I picked the most creative): absolute relativity (I like this one for its irony), evolutionary benefit (then why must we teach children to be good?), and morality is a program—we actually live in the Matrix (I’ll let you sit on that one). Here’s the point. Every one of these alternatives do indeed challenge objective morality and consequently the existence of God. However (and this is big so don’t miss it). However, every other possibility is based on LESS evidence. What do I mean? Here, let Loiuse Antony, an atheist philosopher, say it better than I can:

“Any argument for moral skepticism will be based on premises which are less obvious than the existence of objective moral values.”

What does that mean? It means that although there are many arguments against God, God is more reasonable. But, just in case you were throwing a red-flag, a review on the field, consider this: God’s existence isn’t just understood by objective morality. It carries over into origins, too. According to LiveScience.com[iv], there are seven (scientific) theories to the origin of life.

  • Electricity – a spark spontaneously created life from hydrogen and other molecules
  • Clay – provided a means of organizing chemicals into patterns
  • Submarine Hydrothermal Vents – concentrated molecules together
  • Ice – protected organic compounds from luminosity
  • RNA – stores DNA and proteins
  • Simple Beings – less complicated life evolved into current models (billions of years)
  • Panspermia – life came from other planets

The same skeptic mentality applies—every alternative requires more faith than believing in a Creator, God. Out of the seven listed above, only one actually addresses beginning life; every other option just posits “where” or “materials required”, but doesn’t come close to offering “why” or “how”. But even the lightning/electricity theory has serious problems because scientists know that the Earth wasn’t hydrogen rich in its early, formative, years (let alone the question where did lightning come from) So, any low likelihood of chance, or abiogenesis (something from nothing), is even lower than reasonable—it’s unlikely. To answer Paul’s question, if God knows how much evidence the brain requires, He has provided more evidence for His existence than for any other plausible alternative. But don’t just take my word for it. Here is converted atheist, Anthony Flew:

“…we have all the evidence we need in our immediate experience and that only a deliberate refusal to ‘look’ is responsible for atheism of any variety.”[v]

Therefore, the problem is no longer, “If God would show up”, the problem is, “If you would stop grasping at straws”. God has shown up. He is visible in the abundant life that surrounds us all. He is true to his word, “For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature [Creation and morality, added]—have been clearly seen…so that people are without excuse.

If God would show up…all conditions satisfied.

[i] 1 Sam 18:7; 1 Sam 29:5

[ii] 1 Sam 13:13-14; Acts 13:22

[iii] William Lane Craig, “Defenders Series: Moral 3 & 4”, Reasonable Faith. Presented Feb. 21, 2016. http://livestream.com/reasonablefaith/events/4814084/videos/113118721

[iv] Chales Q. Choi, “7 Theories on the Origin of Life”, March 22, 2011. From: http://www.livescience.com/13363-7-theories-origin-life.html

[v] Anthony Flew. “There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind.” From: https://jamesbishopblog.wordpress.com/2015/07/06/former-atheists-speak-44-quotes/

10 COMMENTS

  1. Roger —

    It’s taken several entries into the series, but I think I’ve finally figured out our disconnect on these articles. I’ve been reading with the assumption that you would be looking to convince a skeptic, and that expectation has generated in me much frustration — as unmet expectations tend to do.

    Having re-read the series, I now see that your articles are written to those who share your presuppositions and to present the internally-consistent apologetic answers to skeptic concerns within that already-held view. Rather than “If God Would ___________”, if I mentally retitle the articles “Why It’s OK That We Have No Evidence for ___________” then I can put on my former theist hat and see what you’re striving for.

    If one already believes in God, and the Bible, and the God of the Bible, then I’d say you’re finding reasonable rationale that a former version of myself might have affirmed. I’ve been attempting to let you know that these rationales hold little sway to those for whom your presuppositions are not shared, but I think I have been wasting my time in doing so. Your message, intentionally or not, is to those who already accept.

    BASICALLY, ASSURANCE THAT PRAYER WORKS COMES IN THE ASSURANCE THAT GOD HEARS YOU; PRAYER IS A COMMUNICATION TOOL NOT A HEALING DEVICE. AT ANY RATE, THE REQUEST WAS SATISFIED.

    These were the sentences that started to clue me in. I nearly choked on the words “the request was satisfied”. Your last article didn’t attempt any kind of method for one to know that one’s prayers to God are any more heard than the prayer I just prayed to the queen of the unicorns. So I read the article again, and since your objective was merely to say that the theology of prayer hearing is unrelated to prayer answering, I guess you did that.

    So with that, in a probably-too-late attempt to avoid tedium, I will refrain from a line-by-line critique of statements that are mere assertions to someone who does not already share your beliefs. That said, there are still some scientific, philosophical and logical points that I feel I must question.

    THOUGH IF YOU WERE HONEST, OBJECTIVE MORALITY CERTAINLY HOLDS WEIGHT

    In as honest a statement as I can possibly make, I see no evidence at all for objective morality. I think it is among the weakest arguments I hear. (I’ve yet to even receive an example of something that is objectively moral.) I’ve had this particular discussion many times, including with some of your fellow bloggers here, as I recall. I’d be willing to have such a discussion with you, but not if you get to win simply by calling me dishonest.

    THE SAME SKEPTIC MENTALITY APPLIES—EVERY ALTERNATIVE REQUIRES MORE FAITH THAN BELIEVING IN A CREATOR, GOD.

    Which takes more faith? To believe that lightning is the result of rapid air expansion due to the heat caused by electricity travelling from areas of positive charge accumulation and negative charge accumulation, or that Thor makes it? The former. It’s very non-intuitive.

    Is this not an apt analogy? Please explain to me how.

    All of the hypothesis you mentioned have some level of evidence. As-of-yet, insufficient evidence, which is why science (unlike religion) is very comfortable saying “we don’t know”. But they have at least some evidence. I know you think you have plenty of evidence for a god, but in terms of scientific evidence there is none, and no opinion on the existence of a creator has predictive power to influence discovery.

    An infinitely complex and fully unexplained being is always going to be a more extraordinary claim than the problem one is using it to explain.

    If every scientific theory currently believed or proposed was the be proven fully and completely wrong in every way, that would not lend a molecule of evidence. To think that is does is the Argument from Ignorance fallacy. (I wish this had a different name, because it always sounds ad hominum, when it isn’t.)

    TO ANSWER PAUL’S QUESTION, IF GOD KNOWS HOW MUCH EVIDENCE THE BRAIN REQUIRES, HE HAS PROVIDED MORE EVIDENCE FOR HIS EXISTENCE THAN FOR ANY OTHER PLAUSIBLE ALTERNATIVE.

    And he hasn’t. Is that perhaps proof there is no God?

    BUT DON’T JUST TAKE MY WORD FOR IT. HERE IS CONVERTED ATHEIST, ANTHONY FLEW:

    Why the appeal to authority? One should point to evidence, not assertions. And why Anthony Flew — a philosopher, not a scientist?

    “…WE HAVE ALL THE EVIDENCE WE NEED IN OUR IMMEDIATE EXPERIENCE AND THAT ONLY A DELIBERATE REFUSAL TO ‘LOOK’ IS RESPONSIBLE FOR ATHEISM OF ANY VARIETY.”

    My most sincere-of-all looks lead me straight from deeply held faith, to the harsh reality that my faith was unfounded. For a second time, you call me dishonest.

    IF GOD WOULD SHOW UP… ALL CONDITIONS SATISFIED.

    For those who already agree with you, perhaps this is true. For myself, all the less.

    All the best, Roger.

    • Roger – I would agree with many of your points and feel they are well made. This seems to be a rather ‘exoteric’ view of prayer and not at all what, say, Evagrios talks about in his treatise on prayer or, come to that, any sage that I have read. Certainly not what the Desert Fathers would have called prayer.

      “PRAYER IS A COMMUNICATION TOOL NOT A HEALING DEVICE”

      This was the sentence that had me spluttering. Communication with whom? An objective God ‘over there’ somewhere? Is the suggestion that God is not ‘in’ us, such that we have to shout at Him across a divide? Surely God is everywhere or must be limited;

      • Hi Peter,
        You are absolutely right. Prayer is more that a communication tool. It is as much a discipline as it is a tool; it is as much inner reflection as it is external outpouring. It exists in grunts/moans and songs/poems. In short, the point I was hoping to convey is God is the source of healing not prayer (though prayer indeed plays a part). All this while not limiting the power and magnitude of an infinite God. I was really hoping to paint a picture of the foolishness of the request without dismissing the sincerity of the appeal.

        Thanks for the insight and referencing Evagrios–that took me back to the college class I never thought I’d need again. Ha. Good times 🙂

    • Hi Paul,
      I’m glad I’m not frustrating you too much, *smile*. A couple points of clarification:
      “I now see that your articles are written to those who share your presuppositions…”
      No, my articles are written for the skeptics. If you want God to show up as a Genie from Aladdin, and another skeptic wants God to show up as a hookah smoking hippie on a mountain, even if God did grant both requests we’d be no closer to proving God exists. However, if we apply external standards it both clears up what it is we are looking for and becomes a falsifiable claim. Basically, I’m asking skeptics to define what it is they’re rejecting.

      “Your last article didn’t attempt any kind of method for one to know that one’s prayers to God are any more heard than the prayer I just prayed to the queen of the unicorns”
      Sure I did, by the same standards I mention above–setting the standard for what the skeptic is asking for. Asking for proof prayer works is a misapplication of terms. If I through my hands up, said “I will believe in evolution when scientists can demonstrate how a Ford Taurus evolved into a Ferrari 458”, you’d laugh and say I’m using the term inappropriately. Same goes for prayer–it’s more about whom the prayer is to than whom the prayer is from. But we can discuss this further on that post.

      “I see no evidence for objective morality”
      The dialog is up to you, I will promise not to call you dishonest, but I’m almost assuredly going to call you inconsistent.

      “Which takes more faith…”

      C’mon. You know that’s not the same. Funny, absolutely (honestly I’m still laughing), but not the same. Knowing how lighting works does nothing to address from whence it came. At some point, something, somewhere is eternal. Whether it is alien life, energy, gravity, or God, nothing will never produce something. That’s common sense. So, as I said in my post, of all the possibilities, they all take more faith than believing in God (even if it’s not the God of the Bible) for reasons like appearance of design, irreducible complexity, and time required, to name a few.

      “For a second time you call me dishonest”
      Not my intention. I know you have studied a great deal. I know you have a well versed background in Christianity and I can only imagine leaving that worldview took considerable thought/prayer (unanswered I’m assuming)/dialog with friends and family. I don’t criticize you for the magnitude of that decision. I’m calling you to step back from the view you can see and look beyond to the big picture. Does life have no meaning? Are we a series of chemical reactions producing desires and emotions? If so, why are you here? Why fight against a worldview so hard to leave? Why invest so much time of your life if a few (1, 5, 20, 50…) years from now you and I are nothing more than bird fodder? I’m not calling you dishonest, I’m appealing to what I think you have yet to reconcile–as much as God has let you down, the world makes no sense without him. That’s not to say we don’t have more understandings of how things work, but absolutely to say we still have zero idea why things ever came to be; why things are so ordered that when something different comes along we actually call it a dis-order; why we can even ask questions, apply to reason, think, and identify. In a materialistic world, truth doesn’t exist (what material is truth made of?), but we still seek it–at our core–like there is something deeper–something inside, calling out that something is bigger than us.
      I’m not asking you to agree with me, Paul. I’m defending what I believe (apologetics)–it’s up to you to accept it or reject it.

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