Monday, December 15, 2008

God Doesn’t Want You To Believe The Bible

Suppose the almighty creator of the universe with the power to control every aspect of reality had sought to achieve a state where all or most normal, thoughtful adult human beings could reflect on the evidence available to them and come to believe that he exists. Could such a being create a state of affairs where being with our powers of reasoning could consult the evidence and conclude that God is real? It would seem that bringing about such a state of affairs would be a trivial matter for such a being. I am not all powerful, all knowing, or all good, yet I can make my existence perfectly obvious to humans.

Is the current state of affairs that most human beings are in one where the existence of such a being is obvious or reasonable? There are a great many people who believe, certainly. But there are a great many who do not. There are billions of Buddhists, for example, who do not believe in the existence of an all powerful creator God. Even those people who believe are doubtful about God’s existence being obvious or clearly indicated by reason. When polled, a great many of them respond that belief in God can only come through faith. And certainly in human history we can find billions more people for whom the existence of such a being was not obvious or reasonable.

What is the evidential situation we are in regarding the Christian God? Our central piece of evidence is a book that is made up of a collection of writings by a wide range of authors. The contents of this book have been culled from a much large body of religious writings over the course of centuries that make a wide range of inconsistent claims about the existence, nature, and history of this God and his actions. Humans have done that culling to arrive at a book that is alleged to be the one, true perfect source of inerrant information about this being.

If the all powerful, all knowing creator of the universe had sought to make his existence known and reasonable through that book or its stories, could he have done a better job? Could the miracles of Jesus have been bigger? Could they have been attested to by more sources? By more reliable witnesses? Could they have been reported by the original eye-witnesses instead of the hearsay reports we have? Could Jesus’ divinity have been less ambiguous? Could the same stories about a 1st century religious leader have arisen even though he was not a supernatural being? Could a more careful and systematic investigation into the stories about Jesus’ supernatural powers have been pursued? Were there people who were contemporaries of Jesus who were not convinced? Could the evidence for them have been better? Could the history of the documents that report the stories about God and Jesus have been less muddled by controversy, fragmentation, and ambiguity?

Most people would agree that the answers to all of these questions are “yes.” We can readily imagine a hundred ways in which the case for God on the basis of the Bible could have been better. It seems quite clear that if God had really intended humanity to believe on the basis of the Bible, he could have done a better job. If God had really intended humanity to believe on the basis of the Bible, he would have done a better job.

Since he didn’t, believers are left in difficult situation. They might argue that there are mitigating circumstances that made it impossible for God to have given us a better body of evidence. That’s embarrassing because the being in question is supposed to be the infinitely powerful, knowledgeable creator of all of reality. What mitigating circumstances could possibly interfere with his getting what he wants? They might argue that it is humans, not God who have meddled with and corrupted the body of evidence, making it not as compelling as it could have been. Maybe it was our freewill and our inherent sinfulness and corruption that lead to the compromises in the evidence for God? But surely an infinitely powerful being could have made his existence better know and better recorded while preserving humanity’s freewill. And this response seems to acknowledge that the body of evidence is insufficient to warrant reasonable belief. If the believer responds that it is a mystery that only God can understand why the evidence is not better than it is, then she has conceded the point that the evidence is not better and it is not reasonable for us to believe on the basis of it. “It is a mystery why X is true,” is not reasonable grounds for believing that X is true.

Since the body of evidence is not better, and since God could have made it vastly better than it is, what are the implications for those who do believe on the basis of that evidence?

If such a being as God had the goal of bringing it about that belief was reasonable on the basis of the Bible, then he would have made it a vastly better body of evidence than it is. So that being must not have had the goal of bringing it about that belief was reasonable on the basis of the Bible. God doesn’t want us to believe on the basis of the Bible; if he did, he would have done a much better job on it. So if someone believes on the basis of the Bible, then it would appear that they are believing in a fashion that is contrary to God’s will. Furthermore, by attempting to construct a reasonable case for God’s existence on its basis, they are doing something that God himself does not appear to be seeking. It would appear that they are distorting, obfuscating, or even violating the real nature of the world that God has created. It would appear that they are actively undermining God’s plans, whatever they might be, and adding to the general confusion, controversy, and grounds for non-belief. By seeking to achieve something that God himself does not want (and could easily achieve if he wanted to), they are thwarting God’s intentions, and contributing to an state of affairs where reasonable believing is harder than God intended it to be.


Casey said...

If man is indeed as sinful as the theist is committed then it also may not be a good idea for the theist to follow the bible at all. Why believe in something as unmistakable truth when you know it was written by other humans who were, at least to some extent, sinful. The theist would be dangerously compiling their chance of error. What does the theist loose?

Instead the theist could be better off simply praying to God and listening to his advice. This way any error in the message could at most come from one person: yourself. There's (not to be circular) a bit of biblical evidence for this in Romans (I believe, can't find the passage, it deals with finding a person from every creed and tongue in the kingdom of heaven). If this is true then certainly folks don't need the bible to find Christ because there are plenty of countries and languages that have come and gone before missionaries got there. Similarly it's not clear that missionary work is really even necessary if everyone can find Christ on their own.

Anonymous said...

People don't find Christ on their own. They find Him (He really finds them) via others.

This is the way God has chosen to do it.

On our own, we conjur up all manner of gods...or not...willy nilly.

God is not willy nilly...He is a person. he has decided to make Himself known in one the person of Jesus Christ.

This is revealed to us in the Bible, so that there will be no mistaking who Jesus Christ is...God.

TheTheist said...

Oh man that is awesome! I should check back more often as I do very much enjoy the conversation. It takes forever to get caught up though and you know how it goes: lots of fish and only so much frying pan. Anyhow, I don’t have too much to say this time except for “amen brother”. I find it slightly ironic that you guys will play such a large part in your own demise. You pound and pound away at the old order, weakening its once solid grip on the hearts and minds of the people. Yet in the end what do you think is going to happen? You think people are going to simply give up God? You will eliminate God about as surely as you will eliminate the experience of love, hope, friendship, beauty, and so on. Good luck.

What you fail to see is that a new theism “will” take the place of the old. In a previous post you had said “We should welcome such a move from the Christian because it amounts to their giving up the whole foundation of truth that their movement claimed to be based upon.” Well in more than a few regards this is exactly what will happen and although only a theist will truly move the church in a new direction it will be oddly enough atheist arguments that compel it. So by all means keep it coming; we got lots of work to do. Nothing but love fellas…and ladies; take care.


Anonymous said...

TT or "the Theist" said "You will eliminate God about as surely as you will eliminate the experience of love, hope, friendship, beauty, and so on. Good luck."

Do you think that God implies those qualities which you compared him to?

TT also said "What you fail to see is that a new theism “will” take the place of the old."

This is an incredibly scary thought. Though, I wouldn't put it passed Christians to CREATE new ways to trick/coerce/guilt/enslave others into believing their so-called "truth" that they preach. The imagination has no limits especially when reason and logic are out of the picture...

Wait... I can point to one good reason why you're wrong about the latter quote. Christians don't believe in evolution, thus, they can't evolve! HAHA! Right?

In all seriousness though, you scare me.

-The Atheist

Teleprompter said...

steve martin:

Why should I believe the description of a deity found in the Bible?

Because it's in the Bible?!

That's not good reasoning at all. The Bible is not good evidence for things that are only in the Bible.


You mention "love, hope, friendship, and beauty". I'd like to know how those are connected with, say, I don't know...Numbers 37.

Seriously, read the Bible (if you're a Christian). All of it. Not just the parts from Sunday School - and read it with an open mind. Do you really think the god of the Bible is compatible with the qualities you recited?

Also, I have no idea what you're saying when you refer to "new theism". I still don't see how that solves the problems of Christianity as currently revealed, such as the problem of evil?

Anonymous said...

I love reading your blog! Thank you for investing the time to write it! I do want to mention that there are not billions of buddhists in the world. That is exaggerated. Most figures come to around 324 million, as in this wikipedia article

But anyways, thanks again for writing. I hope to comment and read more later!

feralboy12 said...

Does anybody else think Steve Martin has been getting small again?

Anonymous said...

Matt, you have, inadvertently, given me the empirical evidence I have been looking for to support my new proof for the existence of God: the argument from douche.
P1: if a maximally douchy entity exists, there must some transendant, countervailing entity which embodies all that which in not douchy. Otherwise, douchiness would have overwhelmed the universe.
P2: non-douchy things exist, such as Jesus, America, freedom, baseball, Ronald Reagan, etc.
P3: a maximally douchy entity exists (proven by your post).
P4: maximal douchiness does not dominate the universe based on the existence of P2 + sunsets, babies, Chuck Norris, etc.
P5: the transendant embodiment of maximal non-douchiness, which allows for existence of P2, must be spacess, timeless, immaterial, omnipotent, in order to overcome the maximal douchiness of P3.
That entity is what classical theists call God.
Thanks again neck beard boy. In all your pseudo-intellectual, teenage angst ridden butthurt fury, you have proven the existence of God!