invisible

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Immortal, Invisible: Do Christians believe something crazy?

I was singing a hymn in church today, one of my favorites: “Immortal, Invisible”; also known as “Immortal, Invisible God Only Wise”

Looking through the lyrics I could see objections to Christianity arise:

“Immortal, invisible, God only wise… Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light… ‘Tis only the splendour of light that hides thee.”

I could see the objection that would be raised almost instantly: Why do Christians believe in something they cannot see? Are Christians crazy?

Simple answer: No, we all believe in invisible things, whether we know it or not.

Long answer: Think of all the things we cannot see that we believe in, and judge for yourself.

1) We believe in the reality of others’ thoughts. This cannot be observed. Although we can observe, in some sense, the brain functioning, we cannot literally see others’ thoughts.

2) Other minds. This one is very similar to the previous one; we believe other people have minds (not to beg the question against materialist–this could be reworded to say we believe other people have brains which trigger phenomena).

3) The ‘real world.’ It is impossible to prove that we are not brains-in-vats. We cannot prove that everything we know is not being projected into our minds by some outside source. Yet we are justified in believing in a world outside of ourselves.

4) Causation. We cannot “see” causation; we can only see its effects. While some philosophers (Hume, for example) deny causation;  we are justified in believing that events can cause each other.

5) Gravity. I can’t “see” gravity, I can only infer that it’s there based upon its effects and/or measurements from instruments which don’t show me pictures of gravity.

6) Dinosaurs lived. We have not observed living, breathing dinosaurs. Yet we feel are within our epistemic rights believing that, at one time, dinosaurs walked on the earth. But think about it: we’ve never seen a dinosaur–we’ve only seen its bones. What allows us to think that those bones were once covered with flesh and walking around?

To deny the above examples (which could be multiplied continually) rightly seem ludicrous, yet they are based on similar reasoning as those who object to God’s existence simply because we cannot see God. Think about it: the inference is “I cannot see God, therefore, God does not exist.” Yet the same types of argument would dispute belief for any of the above examples.

These things are known only by their effects. But the Christian believes God is known by His effects as well. God responds to prayer; He keeps the universe in existence; He causes miracles; He caused the universe. Not only that, but we have philosophical arguments which justify belief in God. The case for the existence of God does not rest on whether we can “see” Him or not.

Those who ridicule Christians for their belief in a God who cannot be seen but by His effects may want to reevaluate their arguments; as with most fallacious arguments, they either prove too much (all things we can’t see don’t exist) or nothing at all (the argument is false).

SDG.

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