Should we all be agnostics?

Let’s say you find the Moral Argument, the Kalam Cosmological Argument, or some other argument for God compelling, does this mean you should be a Christian? Not necessarily. What do these arguments really say?

What can we know from logic and our senses?

First, they show that some Supreme Being exists (for brevity I’ll henceforth refer to this Being as God). It is not irrational to believe in God. In fact, the evidence points strongly in the direction of theistic belief. Second, they say something about God’s nature.

From the cosmological arguments we can see that God must be outside of the universe, He must be timeless, He must be uncaused, He must be a necessary being (from Leibniz). On top of that, he seems to be some sort of Mind or Will which could decide to create one sort of world as opposed to another. We would then describe Him as a Creator. He must be free, for if He were constrained then that higher constraint would be what we mean by God.

From the moral argument we can see that He is the source and foundation of all moral goodness, and from that goodness, issues commands which are to us the foundation for our moral obligations.

We might add to this knowledge evidence from the world we see around us. God has created a world of life, a world with recognizable beauty, and the capacity of His creatures to recognize His existence. Yet we also live in a world of great pain, confusion, and a proliferation of different perspectives on life.

The limitations of our logic and senses

This observational evidence is ambiguous. It requires an interpretation. It tells us something, but we’re not exactly sure what. From our observations and logical capacities, we can confidently say some things about God, but there’s much more we would have to leave unsaid.

Add to that the fact that we are finite and limited creatures seeking to understand an Infinite and Unlimited Being. Given such a vast ontological gap, how could we even begin to say anything intelligible about this Being. I recently read a quote that said: “Show me a worm that can comprehend man and I’ll show you a man that can comprehend God.” This was written by a Christian preacher intended to invoke worship, but in me it was a temptation to despair. The worm is too limited to think or speak intelligibly about man. Are we too limited to know or say anything intelligible about God?

I’ve come to the conclusion that the list of things we can say about God are limited if, that is, our knowledge comes only from our own seeking.

But there’s another way in which we might know God and be able to believe and say more than a limited number of things about Him: He would have to communicate with us.

The nature of revelation

At this point it will be useful to bring in the theological word “revelation”. When applied to God it refers to God showing Himself to humanity. We’ve already seen two ways in which He does this – the physical and moral world. He made a physical and moral world which are accessible through physical and moral senses. However, as we’ve seen, this is insufficient to say a great many other things about God, for that we need a more specific form of revelation, what theologians call “special revelation.”

Here’s where language comes in. Given that we have the capacity for abstract thought through language, that seems like the mostly likely means by which God could give us such a revelation. He could speak to us in a number of ways. He could verbally communicate (a voice from heaven), he could communicate directly to our minds (think an inner, real, but inaudible voice). He could send supernatural messengers. Etc.

Now, this communication, if always private in nature, could create a problem. What would prevent someone from claiming to speak on behalf of God? (Indeed, what does today?) It would make sense, then, for there to be some sort of authoritative source written down which could be referred to again and again to test a supposed “revelation” against.

In this way God could communicate truth about Himself, about us humans, and about our world in a way that is both comprehensible and authoritative. But, the question is, did He in fact do these things and, if He did produce such a book, which one?

And that takes me to the end of this post. Christians, myself included, believe that God has indeed communicated to us in this way, and that this communication is what we find in the Bible. The defense of that argument is the subject of the next post.

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