Daily Archives: February 11, 2008
In a previous post, I made the following claim:
Atheists, agnostics, and skeptics believe that God should still be doing large and visible miracles every day so that we can see and believe that He exists. Most deny any miracles occurred in the past. So I’m left to wonder if it would make any difference if God were to perform a miracle before their eyes. I don’t think that it would; they’d probably run to the comforts of science to try to explain the miracle rather than believing in God. (source)
What I didn’t know is that Hemnant the Friendly Atheist was going to prove my point dramatically in his post, “If a Miracle Came, Would it Convince You?” Go ahead. Read the comments. You’ll see such gems as this:
To convince me that God existed, you’d not only have to show me something I couldn’t explain, you’d have to prove to me that the force behind it was a sentient being. Even then, I’d only know that a powerful being exists who can do things I can’t explain.
It [rearranging the stars in the sky to spell a message] would not convince me that anything “supernatural” is going on. For all I know, the entity is just a super-advanced extraterrestrial with nothing better to do than supervise my life. Again, for all practical purposes, that’s a god. But it’s not necessarily “supernatural,” and I’m not even sure that’s a meaningful concept in the first place. If you can provide evidence in the natural world for the existence of a supernatural world, can there really be a separation between them? Likewise, I can’t possibly tell you what supernatural evidence would change my mind, because if I could describe it, it wouldn’t be supernatural, now, would it? Even if this being does something that defies all known laws of nature, I will just assume there must be other laws yet unknown, and as a scientist I’d probably try to use this opportunity to learn more about them.
. . . I categorically deny the very concept of supernatural. That is, if something exists, it is — by definition and by its very existence — natural.
If the stars rearranged themselves, I would look for a natural explaination [sic].
Here is a true skeptic:
Moving stars is certainly impressive. Unfortunately, it only serves as evidence for something that can move stars.
In response to the true skeptic, someone said:
Well, it serves as evidence for something that can move stars and claims to be God. Given that it’s moving stars, I’d take the claim seriously, though I wouldn’t believe it at face value.
Another scientist weighs in:
To that, I’d be convinced if a theist could tell me what they mean by “god”, what predictions could confirm and disconfirm their hypothesis, and hopefully some reason to think that a god could exist. These are pretty basic, fundamental questions, but I don’t think any theist at any point in history has ever met even a single one of these point.
You can’t test the supernatural with natural sciences. Someone hasn’t done his critical thinking for the day.
Finally, in the “Theology Matters” column:
And as for a miracle that would make me believe? That’s easy. The being in question (supernatural or otherwise) would merely need to change my brain, my thought processes, so that I would believe. I would automatically accept that as proof, wouldn’t I?
Mankind is dead in sin. We are unable to come to God on our own. The very work of God is to do just what would prove to this atheist that God exists. God can and does change the hearts of people to believe in Him.
The logical problem is that God isn’t going to appear in front of this dude and work His heart over. It is a process that comes by time and discipline. It occurs over the natural course of a person’s life–God uses His elect and even the non-elect for this work. His Spirit convicts the person of his sin, and the person becomes willing to repent as a result of God drawing this person to Himself. This atheist, however, doesn’t want any of that–he wants God to appear in front of him and do that work Himself, right now. Presumably so that he knows that it is God and not just some “feeling.”
Another fulfillment of Romans 1? You decide.
It’s interesting how God defines himself. He told Moses that he is the God of your fathers; the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. He did not define himself by his omnipotence or his omniscience but by his personal relationships with these common men. (source)
So reflects Albert Cardinal Vanhoye, leader of the Roman Curia’s Lenten retreat. I think that is absolutely fascinating because for many skeptics, God’s omnipotence and omniscience are not only God’s defining characteristics, but the logical basis by which many of them reject Him. The presence of an omnipotent and omniscient being can only lead to fatalism in their minds, regardless of the number of times that I’ve seen Christians refute this notion.
This is the ontological argument in reverse. Because the skeptic cannot conceive of how an omnipotent and omniscient being could exist within the framework of this universe, no such being can exist. Since God would be such a being, God does not exist.
But God doesn’t identify Himself on the basis of these characteristics. He identifies Himself on the basis of His relationship to His creation. How much more should we, then, identify ourselves on the basis of our relationship to Him. I think that the real problem is that the skeptic is ruled by his sin–and his sin is how he defines “fun.” Drinking, gambling, drugs, premarital sex–all of these things are “fun,” but all of these things have consequences.
Defining oneself on the basis of one’s relationship to God will have consequences, too. One must focus his thoughts on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable (Phil 4:8)–and it is easy to conclude even without a Bible (cf. Gal 5:16-24) that those things I just defined as “fun” from a secular point of view do not fit with that mode of thinking.
Defining oneself on the basis of a relationship with God brings with it freedom from sin (cf. Rom 6:14). Paul exhorts us not to use that freedom for sin, “but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another” (Gal 5:13-14).
So, brothers and sisters in Christ, if God identifies Himself on the basis of a relationship to His creatures, why do the creatures not identify themselves on basis of a relationship to Him?