TIA Tuesday: Passing the buckMay 6, 2008 — Deacon Duncan
Over the centuries, believers have evolved a number of techniques for coping with God’s continuous and universal failure to show up in real life. One of the most common ploys is to try and deflect blame from God by blaming people instead. Here’s Vox Day, from Chapter 8 of TIA, to give us an example.
While Dawkins incessantly complains about the lack of evidence for God, he never quite gets around to explaining precisely what proof, presumably scientific, would be sufficient for him. He poses no potentially falsifiable experiment that would suffice to prove or disprove God’s existence nor does he even consider the question of whether any such experiment would conceivably be possible.
Notice the subtle shift from Dawkins’s request for evidence of God, to Vox’s insinuation that Dawkins is insisting on an arbitrary, unspecified, and unreasonably stringent proof of God. God consistently and universally fails to behave as though He believed the things men say about Him, but instead of blaming God’s behavior on God, Vox wants to claim that it is men who are behaving badly, by making impossible demands.
Now, I can’t speak for Dawkins, but there are a couple of obvious reasons why he might not bother to spell out what sort of evidence he’s looking for. One reason is that it doesn’t matter what evidence you might seek if there isn’t any to find! Vox began this book, which is supposed to provide factual proof that atheists are wrong, with an explicit admission that he is not going to be offering any evidence of God’s existence. And yet that would be the most direct and obvious way to prove that atheists were wrong, wouldn’t it? If Vox really had any genuine evidence, wouldn’t he do better to begin by presenting it?
Dawkins points out that there is no evidence of God’s existence, not because he’s being unclear as to what sort of evidence he would accept, but because Vox has nothing to offer. It’s not as though Dawkins said, “There is no evidence,” and Vox said, “Here is some evidence” and Dawkins said, “I reject it because it’s not the right kind of evidence.” Dawkins is saying “There is no evidence,” and Vox is trying to complain that Dawkins isn’t being fair.
The second reason Dawkins doesn’t need to spell out what sort of evidence he’s looking for is because it’s fairly obvious: if what men say about God were true, God ought to be behaving as though it were true. That means, among other things, that He ought to show up to spend time with us in that personal kind of tangible, two-way interaction He allegedly wanted badly enough to die for. He ought to be behaving as though He believed in the Gospel Himself. Yet He doesn’t even show up in His own churches on Sunday mornings! Why should I bother showing up if He doesn’t?
Vox makes the common mistake of assuming that scientific evidence must necessarily consist of some kind of beaker and test-tube lab experiment, as though science were only done in labs. Science is the practical application of the principle that truth is consistent with itself. Scientific evidence for God need only consist of God behaving in a way that was self-consistent, consistent with the Gospel, and consistent with what we actually find in the real world.
Notice, however, that human superstition—ascribing things to God even though you can’t show any real connection between Him and whatever you’re trying to explain—is not evidence. Autosuggestion and subjective feelings about the idea of God are not evidence. Human imagination about God is not evidence. Unverifiable hearsay is not evidence. Fallacious arguments—e.g. you can’t prove He’s not real, therefore He is real—are not evidence. And neither are self-contradictory and mutually-contradictory arguments. Evidence is that which is verifiably consistent with itself and with the real world.
Genuine evidence would be quite simple: God showing up in the real world, behaving as though He really could do all the things the Bible says He can do, and as though He really did want all the things the Bible says He wants. The Bible portrays God as being willing and able to have an intimate, personal, eternal relationship with each of us, face-to-face, having removed the barriers raised by our own sinfulness, by virtue of His atoning death on the Cross.
Well ok, if that’s what He wants and that’s what He’s succeeded in doing, then we should see Him here with us enjoying the rewards of all His careful planning, sacrifice, and hard work. It’s not that God is failing to do what we want, He fails to do what men claim He wants. Believers are therefore necessarily wrong about God’s ability or God’s willingness to act like He believes the Gospel. Quite possibly, they’re wrong about both.
Vox tries to make Dawkins look ridiculous and unreasonable for noticing the inconsistency between what men say about God, and what we actually observe. But God’s behavior is not Dawkins’s fault. Christians need to come to grips with the fact that God’s behavior is God’s responsibility, and God’s alone. Either that, or they need to admit that God is just a sock puppet, saying whatever words men put in His mouth and performing only those actions which men’s hands do on His behalf. Then it would be appropriate to blame men for God’s choice of actions. But in that case, the guilty ones would be the believers. Neither Dawkins, nor any other unbeliever, is setting God’s agenda for Him.