big-bang

If one wishes to maintain a strong apophaticism (i.e. that God is wholly, ontologically distinct from us creatures, rather than a ‘being amongst beings’), then it seems to rule out a priori that natural theology could give us certain knowledge of God’s essence. Consequently, are arguments for the existence of God pointless? Perhaps not, if we are willing to qualify their usage.

First of all, we must keep in mind that when the typical Christian thinks about arguments for the existence of God, he or she is most probably influenced by Christian apologetics. Apologetics is quite popular these days. I myself was once quite enamored with the endeavor. And understandably so. Numerous facets of apologetics stimulate fascinating discussions.

Nonetheless, we must remember that apologists are keen on debating, which means they are trying to persuade an audience that their side is correct. Some apologists may attempt to give the impression that there is an overwhelming amount of evidence for the view they hold and that such evidence gives certain knowledge of their position. However, as professional philosophers will be quick to point out, such a black and white, hard-evidentialist approach is usually not the case. There are always problems associated with any view. Timothy O’Connor recommends, rather, that we ought to move away from trying to give a ‘proof’ for a position. Instead we ought to: (1) understand the competing views well (which means understand the strengths and weaknesses of each), and (2) “weigh-up” the strengths and weaknesses of each view and make a judgment about where the balance of truth seems to lie. [1] Such an approach is perhaps more ‘humble’ than conventional apologetics. 

Arguments about the existence of God should, therefore, not be taken as absolute proofs of God’s existence. We should neither assume that arguments for God’s existence will provide certain knowledge about His essence or lead us via reason alone to the Christian triune God, who became incarnate in Christ. However, these arguments do provide warrant for religious belief and pose problems for those who wish to adhere to naturalist metaphysic. Emphasizing the reasonableness of religious belief and the problems of naturalism is perhaps the best method to take for natural theology.

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