It seems that it is often the case that when I read works from atheists or talk to atheists one primary objection to the existence of God is “There’s not enough evidence.” A question I ask in response is “What kind of evidence?”
For many atheists (generalizing here, and I realize this), the assumption is that the scientific method is the only way to yield truth. But, assuming for the sake of argument that God exists, how would the scientific method show God exists? It seems to me that the scientific method cannot do so. There could be ways to see traces of God’s influence on the natural world (such as Intelligent Design theorists have claimed), but the God of Classical Theism is Spirit–this God is not part of nature, but created nature. Thus, God is transcendent to nature. God can interact with nature, but is, Himself, not nature.
But then there is a quandary. If I take it that the scientific method (hereafter E for empiricism) is the only way to yield truth, then I have no means by which I can even investigate the truth claims of Theism (hereafter T). For E, at best, can only perhaps give traces of T, but these will not be sufficient for evidence of T on their own. Thus, if I take E to be the only way to investigate reality, I am, a priori, ruling out even the possibility of T, for I am ruling out any means by which I could discover T to be true.
So again the question is “What kind of evidence does one want to show God exists?” Sensory experience could be one reasonable demand, but this seems question begging, as Classical Theism generally doesn’t claim that God interacts on such a sensory (i.e. auditory, visual, etc.) level except in extremely special circumstances (as in the Call of Moses, the Call of Elijah, etc.). What kind of evidence would convince someone to believe in God? Perhaps we could grant that not just E, but also philosophy and logic (hereafter L) are means by which we can yield truth (I believe that this is not an unreasonable suggestion at all, given that science is governed by logic). This opens us up to the possibility of considering arguments for and against the existence of God.
But, at most, L could demonstrate T, but such claims could be ignored, denied, etc. It seems that L could not get one to an understanding of T that would lead to belief. Let’s be honest here, would a good argument really convince anyone that God exists? I sincerely doubt it–for reasons outlined below (and here).
It seems to me that the existence of God necessarily involves one’s will. For if T is true, then the entire world is completely different than it would be if ~T were true. If T is true, then there is a God who created, sustains, and is personally involved with the universe. This includes every person in that universe, every creature, and every object. All of these have their origins in God. But if such a proposal is true, then it seems as though one would have to think, act, and live very differently on T versus ~T. One would be obligated to think about God, to act according to God’s will, and to live daily as though God exists–interacting with God in prayer, praise, thanksgiving, exhortation, etc.
So it seems to me that if T is true, it is not just a matter of seeing enough evidence. I can believe all sorts of things and not have them mean anything to me in actuality. For example, I believe that turtles hatch from eggs. This doesn’t change my behavior. Rather, it is simply factual knowledge. But would that kind of knowledge about God be enough? Let’s say that I have some overwhelming evidence, call it x, that God exists. Is x going to be regarded by me on the same level of the proposition that turtles hatch from eggs? Obviously not, for if x exists, then T is true, and then my entire life should be different. Thus, when asking about evidence, one should realize that such evidence absolutely involves not just belief but also life. Because of this, it seems to me that God could and would make evidence of His existence “purposively available“.
So who is asking for the evidence for God’s existence? Is it someone willing to change his/her life based on the answers? Is it someone who is ruling out the possibility to begin with? Is it someone willing to submit to this God, if this God exists?
Therefore, I return to the question: “What kind of evidence?” and even this question seems to miss the point. Perhaps the answer to the assertion that “There’s not enough evidence to believe in God” or “What evidence is there for belief in God?” should be “Who’s asking?”
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