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The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism

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Timothy Keller, the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, addresses the frequent doubts that skeptics and non-believers bring to religion. Using literature, philosophy, anthropology, pop culture, and intellectual reasoning, Keller explains how the belief in a Christian God is, in fact, a sound and rational one. To true believers he offers a solid platform on which to stand against the backlash toward religion spawned by the Age of Skepticism. And to skeptics, athei…

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I’m a young atheist wanting to explore Christianity. Why, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, do YOU believe in God? What keeps your faith strong and persistent?(r/Christianity)

After reading through your responses here, I feel the need to clarify for you exactly what an argument is and what it can do. You list examples like evolution and heliocentrism and ask how those might affect one’s faith. In reality, these arguments do nothing to disprove God, and are in fact separate issues entirely.

The way you’ve been speaking so far, it seems like the arguments you’re assuming are these:

  • The church believed the sun revolved around the earth
  • The earth in fact revolves around the sun
  • Therefore, God does not exist

and

  • Some Christians say evolution is false
  • Evolution is not false
  • Therefore, God does not exist

Do you see the leaps here? The statement “God does exist” is not a logically valid inference from these arguments. They, in fact, cannot say anything about whether or not God exists; such is simply not a possibility in the premises. What they really can do is this:

  • The church believed the sun revolved around the earth
  • The earth in fact revolves around the sun
  • Therefore, the church was wrong

and

  • Some Christians believe evolution is false
  • Evolution is not false
  • Therefore, some Christians are wrong

Now, does “the church was wrong [on this occasion]” and “some Christians are wrong” equate to “God does not exist?” No. It means that it is a logical possibility, yes, but it does mean that is certain or even probable.

In addition, you’ll find that these arguments are not conflicts at all for the vast majority of Christians, especially those who frequent r/Christianity. This is why:

1) It is possible in our theology for the church to be wrong. The church is made up of human beings, and though those human beings have the power of the Holy Spirit, they are still humans and therefore quite capable of sin and being wrong.

2) The “heliocentrism debate” centered around Galileo is often blown way out of proportion. The issue was how the Church was going to handle someone challenging their authority. Heliocentrism itself was almost a negligible issue, though it was indeed an issue. Additionally, Galileo’s proof for heliocentrism was lacking for the science standards of his day (natual philosophy of this time was strongly influence by Aristotle and his deductive method – induction was not considered valid, and heliocentrism relies on induction). See this Catholic.com article on the issue.

You should also be aware of the philosophical foundation for science. Science is inherently naturalistic, which means that it cannot interact in any way with things outside of nature (related: it is also incapable of ‘proving’ anything, only math and logic can do that; science can only disprove and assume that which is most probable given the evidence). This includes God, as he exists outside of the universe as we perceive it. Dealing with things outside of nature is the realm of metaphysics, and metaphysics is largely philosophy and logic, not science. Thus, any argument that claims “science has proven God does not exist” is an argument resetting entirely on false beliefs about what exactly science is. This is what others in this thread have been saying.

Given all that, you’d do well to know exactly what arguments do set out to disprove God – and there are very few of them that do so in a valid way. Thomas Aquinas, in his Summa Theogica, was in the habit of stating a point, giving three positions on this point, and then stating his view which was contrary to the three and then arguing against the three first points. In his section on “Whether God Exists?” he only lists two reasons; this is because very few of the arguments that claim to disprove God can actually logically do so. These are the arguments he lists:

  • God is an all-good, all-powerful being
  • An all-good, all-powerful being would be capable of eradicating evil
  • Therefore, an all-good, all-powerful being must eradicate evil
  • Evil exists
  • Therefore, God is either not all-good, not all-powerful, or does not exist
  • The God of the Bible is necessarily all-good and all-powerful, therefore the God of the Bible does not exist

and

  • Things that were previously explained using God are now explained without God
  • Humanity will continue to find explanations for things now explained with God
  • Therefore, humanity has no need for God to exist
  • Therefore, God does not exist

Note that these aren’t the arguments exactly as he lists them; I’ve updated them slightly to better reflect how they are used today.

The second argument is yet another argument making a logically invalid conclusion from the premises. Whether or not mankind needs God to exist is irrelevant to whether or not he actually exists. Thus this argument falls flat.

The first argument is known as the Problem of Evil, and it has been a huge issue for theists for a very long time. It has not been answered in a way that most theists find existentially satisfying, meaning that no matter how the problem is answered, evil is always a big problem in everyone’s life, and it’s always hard to understand why God won’t just take it away. That said, the Problem of Evil relies entirely on this premise:

  • Therefore, an all-good, all-powerful being must eradicate evil

We have to ask is that really so? And the answer is, we have no idea if it is or not. It is logically possible that an all-good, all-poweful being could co-exist with evil, even if we don’t know how that is possible. Ultimately, this argument is an argument from ignorance, meaning that it relies on the fact that we don’t know something to make its claim (The “God of the gaps” argument does the same thing, by the way – it says “Look, we don’t know how x or y happen, therefore God”). This is a logical fallacy, and as a result the problem of evil also cannot logically disprove God – though the answer does very little to comfort someone dealing with evil.

I highly recommend you watch Tim Keller on the Problem of Evil at Google. Tim Keller is a big-name pastor in New York in addition to being a popular apologist (meaning one who defends an intellectual stance – in this case, Christianity).

I feel it’s worth mentioning what is probably the most common argument against theism, and especially Christianity, most especially on the internet. This is the argument:

  • Theists believe things that I find crazy
  • Therefore, God does not exist

You should be able to tell by now that this argument is not a true argument at all. The conclusion has nothing at all to do with the premise. It sounds crazy to some people that Christians believe in life after death, but that does not mean it is false, and it certainly does not mean God does not exist. It sounds crazy to some people that some Christians believe that bread blessed by a priest becomes the body of Christ, but that does not mean it is false, and it certainly does not mean God does not exist (a lot of the popular arguments against evolution use this tactic, and are also invalid). This tactic is the one most commonly used by Richard Dawkins.

Ultimately, that ‘argument’ fails because it relies entirely on the perception of the individual and has absolutely nothing to do with logic. It merely disguises itself as logic.

Now, if you really want to read more about why people believe God can logically exist, you want to look into books on apologetics. There are a whole lot of those, as it has been a popular topic for hundreds of years now, but two that are quite accessible and quite strong are The Reason for God by Tim Keller, who I mentioned above, and Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis, of Narnia fame. These two books deal with how God can logically exist, but there are a wealth of books on other apologetic issues, like how we can trust the Bible to be accurate (Reinventing Jesus is a very good book for this issue).

Edit: error corrections, some paranthetical statements.

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Christianity

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2

Sum Of Upvotes

530

Amazon Price

$4.94

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SFW

Book Binding

Paperback

Type Code

ABIS_BOOK

Book Author

Timothy Keller

Book Edition

Reprint

Book Publisher

Penguin Books

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The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism

Post Title

I’m a young atheist wanting to explore Christianity. Why, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, do YOU believe in God? What keeps your faith strong and persistent?

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