Secularists are fond of claiming the mantle of science in their discussions with believers. One can often hear derision dripping from their words, the frustration felt over dealing with such “primitive” beliefs. Science and progress go hand in hand, they assure us, toward a future in which the “evils” of religion will be replaced by an age of enlightenment and reason. If only it were that easy.
A spirited exchange to a recent post included a variety of such challenges. For instance, in arguing against the possibility of miracles, the challenger claimed:
“By definition, if these laws of physics or physical constants are broken, then they are no longer constants, they are no longer laws.
If it were possible for God to interfere with any event in the physical universe, it would imply that God was in fact physical and in that universe. Otherwise, laws of physics would be broken. Thus, God cannot affect the physical world.”
This is sloppy thinking, which a moment’s reflection will easily demonstrate. God – if he exists at all – is that being a greater than which cannot be conceived. There is no power he lacks, no knowledge he fails to possess, no ability that eludes him. Yet, the challenger assumes that, after setting in motion rules for his creation, he would be bound by them; unable to affect them. But upon what is this assumption based?
Consider: a computer programmer can write a program in which he embeds various laws or rules. Those rules will apply consistently – unless of course he allows for the rules to be suspended. What this means in essence is that the primary rule – the one that we usually observe – is subject to a greater law or rule – the one that overrides the general or usual rule. What would stop the programmer from doing this? Could the subject of his rules challenge him for being inconsistent? Even if this fictitious programmer created artificially intelligent beings, they would not even become aware of his existence unless he wanted them to be; and then, only to the extent that he wanted them to become aware. He could do what he wanted with his rules and no one would ever know.
The challenger, in claiming that violations of laws such as gravity are not possible, is simply conceding that he has not yet fully grasped the conception of God. For if he were truly considering, through the use of reason and experience, a being capable of willing into existence a universe of this size, power and complexity – simply by thinking it – then creating exceptions to his rules would not pose a challenge.
To this the challenger will cry foul. You can’t, he may claim, depart from the observed rules by invoking other “god of the gaps” rules. This would make a mockery of science. But if there is no God to provide order – to ground the rules – why should I believe that science has anything to teach? Science is simply measuring observations; I must first believe that a rule of consistency applies, so that making observations is worth the effort. The challenger’s unstated assumption- “there can be no exceptions to the rules I observe” – has no weight unless something lies behind the rules, ready to enforce them or give them consistency. If atheism is true, then we could have no confidence in even our thoughts about rules.
The challenger went on, referring to the Bible:
“This is a book that makes people believe that the laws of physics can be broken, that people can walk on water, turn water into wine, build an Ark to house every animal, rise from the dead, the existence of ghosts, souls, an afterlife, etc, etc.? How can you have an intellectual discussion with someone who uses a rule book that’s so disprovable?”
Disprovable? Really? And how would one go about disproving that someone could walk on water? Is this not based on a presupposition that observed laws of nature always apply? But why should someone believe that? Well, if the universe were designed that way, that would be a sufficient reason. But the atheist rejects the possibility of such a designer. Does he not have to concede, then, that he has no basis for believing that the laws we observe are uniform? What has he done to examine every instance – past, present and future – in which any particular law operates?
The challenger is correct, of course, in concluding that proof of God’s existence does not prove that the God of the Bible is he. That much is true. But recognizing the existence of God is a better starting point than by beginning with the conclusion that God is not even possible.
Posted by Al Serrato