Update: this has turned into a conversation with Dark Poet. Part 2 of this can be found here.
So much of the debates between atheists and theists rests on the idea of proving God exists or defining who God is.
I’ve been asked a number of times “why do you believe”? It is a tough question to answer. Sure, there’s evidence, but I would be the first to admit that the evidence itself does not necessarily prove God. There’s also personal experience, but that is personal and has no bearing on proving God to someone else. I’ll get into the “why” in a bit, but first:
Defining God Would Disprove God
Measurable, verifiable evidence. This is what many atheists demand and ask for. But if they got it, what would that mean for God?
There are a lot of aspects of God that Christians hold as true: God is the creator of all things, God is infinite, God is all powerful, etc. This is a nice, but trite thing to say when taken at face value. For any atheist reading this, I would invite you for a moment to suspend your disbelief for a moment to allow me to make a point.
Imagine the being that would be needed if indeed the universe, in all of its vastness, with billions of stars, billions of galaxies and galaxy clusters, and a scale that is frankly unfathomable – imagine the being that would be needed to create all of that. Imagine the being needed to create, see, and have in His contemplation all of the atoms and subatomic particles that work within this incomprehensibly large universe.
This would be one powerful being – and that’s just when we think about the physical universe. When we consider the complexity of human relationships, of emotions, and the softer sciences, there is an ecosystem which we gladly dive into to discover, learn, and explore. If there is a being who created the vastness of the universe, and the created world that thousands of scientists for thousands of years have been discovering and unraveling. This being would be unfathomable.
The sheer inability to comprehend what type of being could be responsible for all of this is part of what leads atheists to disbelief (at least, that’s the impression I get).
Yet, despite that as a Christian I believe that a being is responsible for all of this, the atheist will ask us to define God. To prove God. To subject this being to our tests just as we would subject a cell, or atoms, or other objects that were created for us.
If you work from the position of the theist, to prove God exists by means of testable evidence disproves God’s existence as we know Him. From the Christian perspective, God created man within the world, and the world is created for man’s exploration, discovery, and enjoyment. We can come to know God better through his creation (and his creation also serves practical needs as well). If God, however, is reduced to something that we can test, measure, and evaluate, that makes Him subject to man, a proposition which is impossible.
To define God would be to disprove him, because that would make him smaller, subject to the confines, rules, and laws of the created world.
Atheists are right: the being they are looking for doesn’t exist. The funny thing is, for all of the demands and requests by atheists to have Christians prove their God in a scientific manner, they are effectively arguing a straw man by assuming God’s nature would even allow to be tested and subjected. That God doesn’t exist.
How My Son’s Birthday Shows Where We Find Proof
I have a 3 year old son who just had a birthday recently. During the opening of gifts, he sat on a chair in the lawn and kids gathered around him, all excited to see what he got. For a 3 year old boy, the excitement is pretty much unparalleled. With each gift he got, he would yell excitedly what it was, laugh, and all the kids would be wowed in amazement.
Then he came to a bag that had two things in it – a battery powered toy, and the batteries. With the bag on his lap he reached in, grabbed the batteries, and – just like all the other presents – screamed out ‘batteries!’ and proceeded to discard the gift bag which had the real gift in it. He was so excited that it took a lot of effort for my wife and I to direct him back to the bag. He couldn’t understand that there was something more in the bag. Naturally, once he got the bag on his lap and discovered the toy, the excitement was even greater.
This story reminds me a bit of my approach – and I suspect most Christians approach – to ‘proving’ God exists. We have no evidence that there is another present in the bag, but – on faith – we open and explore. What we find when we do this is a confirmation that our response to the call to open the bag was worthwhile.
For any atheist reading this, faith does not mean you have to give up your skepticism. It does not mean you have to throw out reason or profess a belief in the great flood. Faith starts with the understanding that God is not to be proven, but discovered and then being willing to start, even in the smallest of ways, to discover if this God is real.
I will end this post here and recommend that you pick up the post over at the blog of an atheist who became a Catholic.