Detecting God

Examining “The God Delusion” Part 3

This is part 3 of my series examining a documentary put together by Richard Dawkins originally entitled “The Root of All Evil” and later renamed “The God Delusion” wherein Dr. Dawkins attacks Christian belief.  Though I have not seen the documentary itself, I feel certain that Dr. Dawkins presented his most powerful arguments in an interview that he had with Alister Mcgrath that was not included in the documentary.

In part 1 of this series, we examined Dr. Dawkins arguments concerning the existence and complexity of God.  In part 2 we examined the questions that Richard Dawkins asked concerning the cross of Christ.  In part 3 we address the dismissive attitude that Dr. Dawkins took towards faith and “internal illumination” and answer the question, “What does a faith that is based on reason look like?”  Before we can answer this question, however, we must establish several principles.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.  (Hebrews 11:6)

The first principle that we must establish is that faith is important to God and that it makes sense that this should be the case.  In my post “The Importance of Faith“, I argue that faith is important in that it allows flawed and sinful human beings to do things they could never do without divine assistance.  An obedient faith in a being of superior love and understanding allows a created being to exhibit perfect love to others which they would not be capable of on their own.  I have also argued in a YouTube video that faith allows God to punish disobedient human beings less, to reward obedient human beings more and allows human beings to develop a true and genuine love for their creator.  Consider these arguments and the proposition that faith is an important virtue.

always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence (1 Peter 3:15)

The second principle that we must establish is that as Christians we have reasons for the hope that is in our heart.  That is to say, we have reasons for the faith that we profess.  In the interview cited above, Dr. Richard Dawkins insists that it must be either faith or evidence but as Christians we have both.  Why is it possible for a brilliant academic to understand that a pizza requires cheese and tomato sauce but not why a Christian can have faith and evidence?  I don’t know but perhaps an illustration would be useful.

Let’s say that a husband is cleaning the family car some Sunday afternoon and comes across a receipt in the trunk indicating that his wife had been shopping the previous day.  This makes perfect sense to him as she had mentioned the shopping trip during dinner the night before.  Later that day, a neighbour comes to the man and says, “I am really sorry to tell you this, but I saw your wife go into a hotel room with a strange man yesterday afternoon.”  Does the man suspect his wife of infidelity?  Or does he trust her?

In considering this question, the man has both faith and evidence.  He has a faith and trust that he has built up over the long years of their relationship and he has evidence (the receipt) that she went shopping just as she had said.  Faith and evidence work together to settle his mind on the decision to trust in his wife and ignore the accusation made against her.  In just this same way, Christians have faith in the God that we have gotten to know through the gospels and evidence of various kinds for the existence and goodness of God.  As I have discussed in a “Faith as Evidence“, the primary evidence that we have for the truth of Christianity is faith itself.  Now Dr. Dawkins would obviously dismiss the idea that I presented in that previous post, but in doing so he is being very unscientific.  To see why this is, consider how scientists prove the existence of exotic forms of matter.

When scientists want to detect matter that only weakly interacts with the everyday matter that we are familiar with, how do they go about it?  In the case of neutrinos, they place a large amount of water in a deep mine shaft and look for evidence of the neutrinos interacting with the water.  Though such interactions are rare, taking enormous care and using very sensitive detectors has yielded a great deal of information about the elusive particles.  Similarly when astronomers look for evidence of “dark energy”, they look for the gravitational effects of dark energy on distant galaxies in order to make their case.  In both cases, scientists look at something that we can see that interacts with that which we cannot see in order to detect and understand something that cannot be studied directly. When it comes to detecting God, we can use the same techniques.

The Bible tells us that God is a spiritual being and that, alone among all the animals, human beings are made in his image and are able to interact with him.  If these claims are true, then we should be able to detect God by observing in human beings behaviors that we could not otherwise explain.  As a Christian for nearly twenty years, I have heard the testimony of many Christians to precisely these kinds of effects.  Marriages saved from infidelity, alcoholics freed from their addictions, sexually abused children able to forgive and love those who abused them, violent sociopaths who became filled with love and understanding.  If I were ever asked for the primary evidence that Christianity is true, I would have to argue that it is the power of God made visible in transformed human lives.  Like an invisible form of matter causing a gravitational effect, God’s work in human lives is the best evidence for his existence.

Now, of course, the enemy of those who are faithful is well-aware of the power of this evidence and he counters it in the only way that he can: by providing counterfeits.  Bring up the power of Christian testimonies to an atheist like Sam Harris, for example, and he will cite a Hindu mystic like Sai Baba and argue that believers in other faiths often make the same kind of claims.  The Bible, however, never claims that God is the only source of supernatural intervention in this world.  In fact, one of the greatest confrontations in the Bible is the confrontation between Moses and Aaron and Jannes and Jambres in the court of Pharaoh.  That the Bible is the true word of God and that the counterfeits are inferior copies is clear if you consider the prima facie case for Christianity discussed in “Jesus Christ the One and Only“.

About Robert V

Former atheist currently living in Toronto.
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