I’ve noticed a trend on Twitter and I’m not sure if it’s representative of the world at large, or a phenomenon of the social media. The vast majority of the atheists I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with on Twitter have attempted to disabuse me of my faith through mockery and personal insults, rather than reason and logic. But every once in a while I come across a thoughtful Tweeter who wants to engage respectfully at the level of ideas. I’ve written about my exchanges with one such gentleman, and I recently encountered another good man called @cadmeister. He’s put two great questions to me that have given me pause. The first question had to do with how important it is to me that God is actually true, which I wrote about here.
The second question he asked was, “Where would one go searching if they wanted to find God?” And he elaborated on his question as follows:
@roso_creative Inside our heads? Inside our hearts? Or searching for any form of evidence of his existence external to ourselves?
— cadmeister (@thecadmeister) December 4, 2016
Based on my conversations with Mr. Cadmeister I believe the question was asked sincerely and that the answer he’s looking for is one of empirical evidence and/or physical proof. In other words, he’s inquiring after scientific evidence of God. And that got me thinking.
It’s fascinating to be alive in an age when the human race is learning so much about the universe and life, discovering everything from new galaxies to the genetic code inside human DNA. Science is amazing in it’s ability to explain the physical world around us. But I wonder if one were to consider the most important and relevant questions asked by human beings, how many could science help us answer? I’m thinking of questions like:
- Am I loved?
- Why am I here?
- Where did I come from?
- What is my destiny?
- How can I know what the right thing to do is?
- Why do I do things I don’t want to do?
- What is the meaning of life?
- Why is there so much pain and evil in the world?
- How can I live a life that matters?
- What are the most important things in life?
- How can I become a better person?
- What can I do with my guilt and shame?
- How can I forgive the unforgivable?
- Why is this tragedy or trauma happening to me?
On these more important issues I would submit that science is impotent. Not because science is wrong or bad, but because it’s the wrong tool for the job. The explanatory scope of science is limited to the physical world. It has nothing to offer on non-physical issues such as morality, purpose, or meaning.
Many of my atheist brothers and sisters are (knowingly or not) proponents of Scientism; the belief that science is the source of all truth and one day science will be able to explain everything. Ironically, this is a school of thought that does not conform to the Scientific Method and, in fact, shares many of the attributes of religious fanaticism. And it results in the oft heard claim that “we may not know the answer now, but give science another X years and it will be able to explain everything”.
This claim sounds strikingly similar to the ubiquitous “god of the gaps” argument used by atheists, which accuses Christians (and theists in general) of claiming “I can’t explain it, therefore God did it.” The argument further asserts that as science is advancing and becoming able to explain more things, god has been shrinking and one day he/she/it will no longer be necessary to explain anything. The most common example used by atheists to support this argument is how early mankind used to believe lighting and thunder were caused by angry gods, or were gods themselves. Yet today we know that lighting is simply an electrical spark that occurs when the particles in a cloud become charged.
I have to admit…the atheists are right. The “god of the gaps” position is faulty and the example they cite is true. Many early religions postulated a personification or source of the forces of thunder and lightning, and thousands of years later scientists discovered it was actually electrical forces at work.
That said, the Judeo-Christian worldview has never claimed an understanding of God as a “god of the gaps”. We have always believed Him to be the God Of It All, which includes the things we know and understand, and the things that we don’t. The Bible has never taught that thunder and lightning are gods to be worshipped, nor that they are a result of Thor and Zeus having an argument on Mount Olympus. Rather, the Judeo-Christian worldview holds that God created the universe, which includes all matter and time, as well as electromagnetism, gravity, water, and all the other physical elements and natural laws necessary to produce the universe, life, and, yes, lightning and thunder.
Interestingly, Scientism’s claim that”we may not know the answer now, but give science another X years and it will be able to explain everything” is really, at bottom, a “science of the gaps” argument. It is essentially claiming “I can’t explain it, therefore Science did it.”
Which brings us back to the list of questions above which science is, and will always be, powerless to answer, and to the original question that led to this article in the first place. I was asked “Where would one go searching if they wanted to find God?”. Here’s the answer I ultimately gave to @cadmeister:
Atheists don’t typically invest themselves in an honest search for God for the same reason I don’t invest myself in an honest search for Zeus; we each believe the being in question is a man-made myth. This is why I believe atheists are most likely to discover God when they are not looking for Him at all. They will find Him while they are honestly searching for answers to questions about meaning, morality, origin and destiny.
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” —Jeremiah 29:13