The Evidence for God is Widely Available and Easily Resistible

images-1When asked what he would say if, upon his death he found himself before God, the great 20th century atheist Bertrand Russell famously replied, “God, you gave us insufficient evidence.”[1] While this reply has the ring of wisdom and steady confidence to our modern ears, my guess is that such responses will sound hallow on the other side of eternity. Is it really the case that there is insufficient evidence for God, as the atheist so often asserts? Or, as the theist so often replies, is all creation “charged with the grandeur of God,”[2] pointing, for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, to a transcendent reality?

The Baylor philosopher C. Stephen Evans offers a helpful way to understand the evidence for God’s existence. Given that God’s intention for humans is that we would flourish in a loving relationship with him, it is reasonable to think that the evidence for God’s existence is widely available. Evans specifies this truth in terms of the following principle:

Wide Accessibility Principle: The evidence for God is widely available and not difficult to attain.

The evidence for God functions as a “natural sign,” a “pointer,” a “clue” that points to something beyond itself. In his book Natural Signs and the Knowledge of God, Evans considers three natural signs that he thinks ground the classical arguments—cosmological, teleological, and moral—for God.[3] For example, experiences of cosmic wonder, in which the world or objects of the world are perceived as mysterious or puzzling and thus cry out for an explanation, point to a transcendent reality as the cause or explanation of the world or objects of the world. These natural signs are readily available to all, young and old, educated and uneducated, rich and poor, black and white. I think there are daily millions of signposts that point to God including beauty, leisure, reason, romantic love, good literature, longing and more.

At the same time, given the fact that God wills that we freely and joyfully enter into a loving relationship with him, the knowledge of God is not forced on humans. Those who do not want there to be a God, as Thomas Nagel famously describes his own position with respect to God, find it relatively easy to reject the idea that there is a God.[4] The evidence for God is easily resistible:

Easy Resistibility Principle: the widely available evidence for God is less than fully compelling. One’s perception of the strength of the evidence can be overridden by affective and volitional factors.

The evidence for God needs to be perceived and understood and it is possible that one fails to see or understand the sign as a pointer to God. As the great philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) put it:

Thus wishing to appear openly to those who seek him with all their heart and hidden from those who shun him with all their heart, he has qualified our knowledge of him by giving signs which can be seen by those who seek him and not by those who do not.[5]

God is not after mere belief because mere belief cannot save.[6] It is not transformative. It does not address adequately the human predicament.[7] Rather, God is after our hearts. He desires that we know him as Lord and trust him as our greatest need and highest good. Given his intentions for humans, it makes sense that the evidence for God is both widely available and easily resistible. Those who seek God shall find him. And in finding him, they will find the happiness that God gives which, as C. S. Lewis reminds us, is the only happiness there is.

For further discussion on the problem of divine hiddenness, see my post: Why Does God Hide?

For further discussion on the evidence for God, see my post: Can we know anything if Naturalism is true? A plea for creativity with Theistic Arguments.

See also my posts on the question of God’s loving care for humans:

Does God Not Care for Me? The Case against God

Does God Care for Me? The Case for God

 

 

[1] Bertrand Russell, “The Talk of the Town,” New Yorker, February 21, 1970, p. 29, cited in Chad Meister, “Evil and the Hiddenness of God,” in God and Evil: The Case for God in a World Filled with Pain, ed. by Chad Meister and James K. Dew (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2013), 140.

[2] As Gerard Manley Hopkins once wrote, “the world is charged with the grandeur of God,” in “God’s Grandeur,” in The Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins, 4th ed., ed. W. H Gardner and N. H. MacKenzie (New York: Oxford University Press, 1967), 66.

 [3] C. Stephen Evans, Natural Signs and the Knowledge of God (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010).

[4] “I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God, and, naturally, hope that I’m right about my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.” Thomas Nagel, The Last Word (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 130.

[5] Blaise Pascal, Pensées (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1958), 118, cited in Evans, Natural Signs and the Knowledge of God, 16.

 [6] Consider: Setting Jesus aside, who had the best theology in the Gospels? Answer: The demons! They understood exactly who Jesus was. They had correct beliefs about Jesus. But correct belief, while necessary for faith, is not sufficient.

 [7] Paul Moser stresses this point in his writings on religious epistemology. See e.g., Paul Moser, The Elusive God: Reorienting Religious Epistemology (Cambridge University Press, 2008).

5 Responses to The Evidence for God is Widely Available and Easily Resistible

  1. Roger Price says:

    Dr. Gould: I am so deeply grateful for your scholarship and the witness of your life.

  2. Pingback: The evidence of God is readily available | A disciple's study

  3. Mark Vaughan says:

    As you say, He will always remain hidden from those who do not wish to see Him.

  4. Pingback: My Favorite Books from 2016 | Paul Gould

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