The Reason for God

Timothy Keller

Intermission

Intermission – Christianity and “Sufficient” Reason

  • The absence of sufficient reasons to disbelieve in Christianity is not the same as the existence of sufficient reasons to believe in it.
    • So how do we define Christianity and “sufficient”?
  • Christianity and Reason
    • Christianity: The body of believers who assent to the great ecumenical creeds.
      • Apostles, Nicene, Chalcedonian and Athanasian
      • A Triune God who created the world and humanity that fell into sin to be saved by the death an resurrection of a fully human and divine Jesus who will return to renew heaven and earth.
    • Reason for God is not denominational – He looks at Christianity in general.
  • Sufficient – or what does it mean to be rational?
    • Many contemporary challenges (eg. the new atheists) apply “strong rationalism.”
      • No one should believe a proposition unless it can be proved rationally by logic or empirically by sense experience.
      • Called the “Verification Principle”.
      • Hence “proved” means that an argument is so strong that no person whose logical faculties are operating properly would have any reason for disbelieving it.
    • Atheists and agnostics often ask for this kind of proof – but they are not alone.
      • Some Christians claim their arguments for faith are so strong that all who reject them are simply closing their minds to the Truth out of fear or stubbornness.
  • The great majority of philosophers today think that “strong rationalism” is nearly impossible to defend.
    • First, it doesn’t live up to its own requirements.
      • How to you empirically prove that you need empirical proof?
      • This reveals “strong rationalism” to be a belief.
    • Second, it assumes you can find a perspective of complete objectivity.
      • But everyone comes to these questions with experience and background that color our thoughts.
      • Philosopher Thomas Nagel, an atheist, admits in his book "The Last Word " that he cannot come to the question of God in anything like a detached way.
      • In the real world, if we were a judge, we would recuse ourselves. But we can’t!
  • The adherence to “strong rationalism” is one reason why the recent crop of atheist books (Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, Hitchens) have fared so poorly in the scholarly journals.
  • But it we reject “strong rationalism,” must we go all the way to relativism?



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The Reason for God

Timothy Keller

Intermission

Intermission – From Strong to Critical Rationalism

  • There are arguments that many or even most rational people will find convincing.
    • But there is no argument that will be persuasive to everyone regardless of viewpoint.
    • Still some systems of belief are more reasonable than others.
      • Even though all arguments are rationally avoidable in the end.
      • One can always find a reason to escape short of sheer bias or stubbornness.
  • But this doesn’t eliminate the ability or need to evaluate beliefs.
    • We should just not expect conclusive proof.
    • Not even science proceeds in this manner!
      • Science is reluctant to say something is “proved” – but this does not mean that they do not test theories and find some more reliable than others.
  • In "Is There a God? " Oxford philosopher Richard Swinburne argues powerfully that belief in God can be tested and justified (though not proven) in the same way.
    • Belief in God leads us to expect what we observe – that there is a universe at all, that scientific laws operate, that it contains humans with consciousness and an indelible moral sense.
    • Belief that there is no God leads us to expect none of these things.
    • Therefore belief in God is a better empirical fit! Just because it is not “proven” doesn’t mean we cannot sift and weigh the value of various religious beliefs.
God, the Playwright



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The Reason for God

Timothy Keller

Intermission

Intermission – God the Playwright

  • Don’t think “critical rationality” is some kind of second best.
    • If the God of the Bible exists, that’s how we should approach the question of his existence.
  • But if there is a God, he would relate to us like a playwright and his play.
    • He wouldn’t be another character in his creation that could be put in a lab and empirically analyzed.
      • A Russian cosmonaut returned to earth and claimed that he had looked out the port of his space craft but had not seen God! Case closed!
    • We as characters might know quite a bit about him, but ONLY insofar as He was willing to put that knowledge in our minds.
  • CS Lewis says he knows not only that the sun exists by looking at it, but because by it he sees everything else.
    • In other words, we don’t have to see God to know that He exists.
  • So here’s our way forward. Don’t look for God directly, look for what His existence makes possible and explains.
    • We have a sense that the world is not the way it ought to be.
    • We have a sense that we are very flawed and yet very great.
    • We have a longing for love and beauty that nothing in this world can fulfill.
    • We have a deep need to know meaning and purpose.
  • Which worldview best supports these things?
  • If the God of the Bible exists, He is not a man in the attic but the playwright.
    • We won’t be able to find him like we would any other object.
    • We must find the clues to his reality that he has written into the universe, including into us.
  • We could expect Him to appeal to our rational faculties if we are truly made “in His image”.
    • We could expect some resonance between His mind and ours.
  • But reason alone won’t be enough.
    • We need revelation – which is why we look at the Bible.
  • For the Christian, the ultimate evidence is Jesus Christ himself.
    • As characters in God’s play, we hope that He has put some information about Himself into the play.
    • But Christians believe He did much more than that.
    • He wrote Himself into the play as the main character in history – through His birth, death and resurrection.
    • And it is with Him that we need to deal.



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