Doubt and unbelief cannot be overcome by logical reasoning and proofs. The only treatment for doubt is punishment. (Promise and Deliverance S. G. De Graaf. Volume I. Page 65)
But he said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.” Luke 16:31
“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” Rom 1:20
One incongruity that exists in Christianity is the relationship between evidence (apologetics) and faith. On the one hand you will find many Christian apologists trying to defend their faith by a series of approaches that supposedly give evidence or support for their particular brand of Christianity. On the other hand, there is the emphasis on faith in “coming” to Christ even though faith, by definition, means “belief that is not based on proof.” Even the Bible says this in Hebrews 11:1 where faith is defined as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (NASB). Some apologists will try to minimize this incongruity by stating there is enough evidence to bring you to faith and allow you to see that it is a rational and logical way to proceed. This is what Paul was getting at in Romans 1:20 (quoted above) – that by looking around at the world and looking at the wonder of creation, it clearly demonstrates that there is a god and we are without excuse for failing to believe. This is a position taken by many believers and may even have been a powerful argument at one time. For example, this quote is typical:
Paul tells us that the unbeliever is without excuse. God reveals Himself in two ways, directly through His Word and indirectly through a general revelation. God’s presence can be discerned through His creation. The very workings of the heavens proclaim that God exists. The marvel of life shows His hand. The more we learn about the cosmos that more we see the intricate design of creation. Anything designed to the procession of the universe cries out for a designer. (They Are Without Excuse)
Actually, not so much any more. With the advent of modern science, such a argument is vacuous. We know much more about the beginning of our universe and the evolution of life on this planet than the ancients ever did and, frankly, god can be easily left out of the equation. It is no longer “obvious” that there is a god that created all things. You can, of course, invoke a creator deity, but such a deity is not necessary to explain the universe or life on this planet. (e.g. see A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing by Lawrence M. Krauss and The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins)
Once you get rid of Christianity’s red herring called evidence, it all comes down to faith. The Bible makes it clear that without faith “it is impossible to please him” (Heb 11:6, NASB). Every once in awhile someone in the Christian world, with brutal honesty, tells us what they really think about logic, proof and evidence. S. G. De Graaf (1889-1955) was such a person. He was a Reformed (Calvinist) minister in the Netherlands who wrote a massive 4 volume work called Promises and Deliverance. In it, as quoted above, he clearly stated that “Doubt and unbelief cannot be overcome by logical reasoning and proofs.” Actually, this makes complete sense coming from a Calvinistic and Reformed point of view. In this theology god is completely sovereign even in the area of salvation. God picks whom is to be saved and it is impossible to resist his call to salvation. All that He calls will come to Him as is seen in John 6:37-39:
All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.
Resistance to this call then is not about evidence and not about proof but about plain old sin. It is also a resistence that is ultimately futile. So all the proof in the world falls on deaf ears. Luke 16:31 (quoted above) basically says the same thing. That even if someone rose from the dead (a forbearing of unbelief in light of the supposed resurrection of Christ), we are so hard hearted that we would still refuse to believe. Here, proof and logic are inconsequential. The only thing that will get someone’s attention is punishment. As De Graaf says, “The only treatment for doubt is punishment.” Basically, reason and logic don’t work, only punishment. This has the “ring” of truth to it if you are on the believer’s side of the fence. After all, the believer has faith so it is very tempting to trivialize unbelief as sin instead of lack of evidence. Even the apologist William Craig Jr. said:
…For not only should I continue to have faith in God on the basis of the Spirit’s witness even if all the arguments for His existence were refuted, but I should continue to have faith in God even in the face of objections which I cannot at that time answer… What I’m claiming is that even in the face of evidence against God which we cannot refute, we ought to believe in God on the basis of His Spirit’s witness. Apostasy is never the rational obligation of any believer, nor is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. God can be trusted to provide such powerful warrant for the great truths of the Gospel that we will never be rationally obliged to reject or desert Him. (The Witness of the Spirit as an Intrinsic Defeater Defeater)
I maintain that logic, evidence and proof are the only things we have to determine truth in this world and the best way (not the only way) to do this is the Scientific Method. As Maimonides said: “It is not proper to abandon matters of established knowledge that have been verified by proofs… and depend instead on the teachings of individual sages who may have possibly overlooked what was essential to these matters… a man should never cast reason behind him, for the eyes are set in the front, not in the back.” (quoted in Doubt. A History)
If there is no compelling evidence for god. If the universe can be explained without a creator. If life evolved and was not created. Do we need to invoke a creator being? And even if we do, that doesn’t mean god cares one iota about man. And even if he does, that doesn’t mean the Christian has it right. And even if Christianity does, which of the 34,000 to 38,000+ variants are true? In other words the idea that logic, evidence and proof are inconsequential and all that really matters is faith, is a quaint idea that has a bit in common with Pascal’s Wager. For both ideas to work, the assumption has to be made that the choices are unbelief and belief in the Christian god. Add other religions to the mix or a large number of conflicting Christian theologies and suddenly your world goes topsy-turvy. The true choice isn’t between unbelief and the Christian god but between unbelief and 100’s of gods and between belief in a god or gods and disbelief in all others. Pascal’s Wager breaks down when you realize there are other religions making claims of heaven and hell (reward and punishment) outside of Christianity.
Faith breaks down likewise. Faith in what or who? Faith in what god? Faith in what religion? Faith in what theological system? What Christian concept of god and Christ and salvation should you believe? If you are only going by the “internal witness of the Holy Spirit”, frankly, you are screwed. Even the Bible says that god sometimes places or allows to be placed a lying spirit in man’s heart (e.g. 2 Thess 2:11, 1 Kings 22:22). It also frighteningly states that there will be many who think they are believers, but god will tell them “I never knew you” (Matt 7:23). If there is a god that is capable of this type of deceit, then there is no “internal witness” that can be trusted.
Without evidence, proof and logic how do you know what is true? After all, practitioners of most religions believe theirs to be the one true one. How do you know your faith and your god is better than theirs? And if you say your Holy book tells you so, just remember that the other religions have their Holy books too! In a world where it is obvious that religion is a multiple choice affair, the requirement for faith as a selector is outdated and naïve. Furthermore if there really is a god who cares about the truth of what you believe, faith is down right dangerous.
What about the concept of punishment for those that don’t believe, by faith, in a particular god? I can say it no better than the Islamic sage Ibn al-Rawandi (9th century) who said:
A God who inflicts illness upon his slaves cannot be counted as one who treats them wisely, nor can he be said to be looking after them or to be compassionate toward them. The same is true concerning he who inflicts upon them poverty and misery. Also unwise is he who demands obedience from a person who he knows will disobey him. And he who punishes the infidel and disobedient in eternal fire is a fool. (Medieval Islamic Sceptics)
A god who requires a person to believe without evidence and then punishes that person for not believing is a malevolent being. For a Calvinist it is even worst since they believe in a god which is completely sovereign when it comes to salvation. If this god doesn’t select you then you aren’t going to be saved; yet, this god will hold you accountable for a choice you cannot make and punish you eternally for it! That makes malevolence seem loving in comparison.
I don’t disbelieve because I want to sin. (Whatever sin means, since it is a purely religious concept and varies greatly even within the Christian framework.) I disbelieve because I find no compelling evidence to believe in a god. As to the Christian god, I find a large amount of evidence that the god described in the Bible and by most Christian theologies, simply doesn’t exist.