Presuppositions

In the three years I’ve been a Christian, the most fundamental change in viewpoint regarding the defense of Christianity revolved around the concept of presuppositions.

An interesting question to ask someone is, “What would it take for you to believe in God?” Now if the answer is “Nothing,” then there’s nothing left to argue, and evidence or not, nothing can change the opinion of that person. Sometimes, “nothing” can be disguised as “a miracle,” or “a personal experience.” Then you ask, “So if someone comes in here and heals the pain you have been having for the past ten years, you will believe in God?” And he might answer, “Well, maybe I will attribute it to psychosomatic effects. But maybe if I saw God physically…” But further probing would reveal that the person will attribute the physical sensation to hallucination. So a stubborn atheist can come up with an explanation for everything without involving God. Likewise, a Christian can come up with an explanation for everything by attributing it to God. Thus, this kind of argument is not very productive. In the eyes of an unbeliever, Creation is attributed to “randomness,” healing is a psychological effect, turning water into wine was a magic trick, historical documentation is a conspiracy for control and power, and so on.

The entire belief or unbelief of something therefore relies on what one wants to believe. Does that mean I’m believing against reason? Not at all. One of the reasons I believe in God is the various bits of evidence I have seen or read or experienced. I don’t think they will do any good in convincing other people. In the end, who determines whether we believe is God. He can harden some people’s hearts and soften others’. Even though He has already planned everything, we still have to make a choice. Without getting into the issue of free will, I believe that this choice is what separates the believers from the unbelievers. Do you want to believe?

One has to be careful about that on which he bases his faith. Evidential apologetics was the way God pulled me to Him. I was a scientific kind of guy, and I wasn’t as interested in theology at the time. Apologetics was thought-provoking, mind-opening, and interesting. But humans created many of these arguments, and so they contain flaws and shortcomings, and the possibility of misinterpreted data. The problem with (evidential) apologetics is that if you’re any kind of rational being, when someone comes along and debunks a theory by better fitting the data to a new theory, you lose firmness in your belief because what you depended on wasn’t a solid rock but a hollow wall.

I believe it is important to keep this humility, that we don’t know everything and that we don’t understand everything. Someone may explain something that sounds solid when you hear it, but someone else may come along and expose the holes in that argument, and it will no longer hold water, leaving you thirsting for a more satisfying explanation. You may become desperate, buy bad water, and then become sick of the faith, or you may abandon the faith altogether. So those are the dangers I foresee in apologetics.

I’ve come to realize something about faith. Apologetics brought me to God, but Scripture kept me there. I came into Christianity depending on apologetics, but many arguments seemed semilogical and I’m not a historian so I cannot evaluate the historical evidence myself. Yet I am still Christian. Though arguments have drawn me into the faith, I am Christian because I want to have hope. Life is meaningless without God. I can seek worldly pleasures and build up worldly treasures, but they will all disappear when I die. I don’t want to live like that. So I have hope of something permanent. Without God, there is no permanence; life would be a fleeting blink of an eye on a speck of dust in an enormously empty space. I have hope of something greater than me that’s in control, and that’s why I believe in God. Am I making something up to make myself feel better? Not any more than the atheist who makes up the notion that there is no God so that he can feel better about being in control. Because no evidence will ever prove (and here I use prove in its strongest sense) that there is no God. And depending on your presupposition about the existence of God, any evidence or data can be interpreted your way.

The existence of God is a premise, not a conclusion.