About a month ago I received a spirited email from a self-described skeptic whose friend had recommended that he read Don’t Stop Believing. The reader said that he had been raised in a conservative Christian home, but now he thought that there was insufficient proof for the existence of God and Scripture. He was singularly unimpressed with my arguments for both in DSB, and he suggested that I man up and mail him a refund. I responded to him from a presuppositional perspective, which I have edited to conceal his identity.
Thank you for your email. Regarding your questions, I was writing DSB from within the Christian tradition for other Christians, so I was assuming some basic starting points, or presuppositions. You do not seem to share those same presuppositions, so let me say a word about them.
You are right that in some sense we all begin with ourselves. If I believe in something or think that something is true, then it must be “I” who holds this belief. So you and I both use our rational and empirical faculties as instrumental starting points.
We differ in regard to our content presuppositions. You seem to begin with yourself again, refusing to believe anything on insufficient evidence. This would explain why you think that I am a fideist (claiming that “I know because I know even though I can’t prove it”) and why you say that you don’t know whether God exists or the Bible is his Word.
My content presupposition is that God exists and that he has revealed himself in Scripture. I appreciate why you would not accept this starting point, but you should note that I am not claiming to be “an oracle channeling God” but rather a recipient of his revelation. This is the important difference between us: I believe that God has revealed himself to us and you do not.
Given your autonomous starting point, you expect me to supply an argument or sufficient evidence to prove that God exists and that the Bible is his Word. I do have lots of evidence for both. I could argue for God from the beauty and grandeur of creation, the majesty of humanity, and the amazing complexity of a single cell. I could tell you that the Bible is a wise and life-changing book that has been repeatedly verified by archaeology and history. But nothing I could say would require you to concede that I am right about either.
But following the lead of Alvin Plantinga, professor of philosophy at Notre Dame (see his Warranted Christian Belief published by Oxford University Press or his earlier Faith and Rationality), I don’t think that I need to prove either.
For example, I suspect that deep down you do know that God exists. Consider why you hold God’s existence to a much higher standard than anything else. You cannot prove that people have minds (i.e., something which transcends their physical brain), what you ate for breakfast this morning, or even that you exist, and yet you believe in each of these (the Matrix taught us that we all might be digital numbers inside someone’s software package—it sounds farfetched but it’s impossible to disprove). Why do you demand 100% indubitable proof for God’s existence and not for anything else? Could it be that you and I have a vested interest in not admitting God’s existence? That if we conceded that he is God then we could not be?
Here’s my point: since presuppositions interpret the evidence, you and I won’t get very far arguing the evidence because our presuppositions will interpret the evidence differently. The same sunset that I say reveals God will to you be merely a beautiful example of nothing but nature. So the only way forward is to ask which presuppositions make the best sense of our world. Which ones are livable?
I wonder what you thought of the argument from Plantinga and C. S. Lewis which I use in chapter 10, that the very rationality we use to refute the evidence for God cannot be explained without him. If knowledge is a justified true belief, and God is required for truth (unguided natural selection says that we believe what helps us survive but not necessarily what is true), then we can’t have knowledge in a world without God. So belief in God is required to know anything. The same argument that seeks to disprove God, inasmuch as it is an argument, already presupposes him.
I am not saying that you have to agree with me, but you should realize that just because I can’t prove God to you does not mean I don’t have good reasons for believing in him. And so do you.