Seidensticker Folly #13: God Hasta PROVE He Exists!

Seidensticker Folly #13: God Hasta PROVE He Exists! August 29, 2018

Atheist and anti-theist Bob Seidensticker runs the influential Cross Examined blog. He asked me there, on 8-11-18“I’ve got 1000+ posts here attacking your worldview. You just going to let that stand? Or could you present a helpful new perspective that I’ve ignored on one or two of those posts?” He also made a general statement on 6-22-17“In this blog, I’ve responded to many Christian arguments . . . Christians’ arguments are easy to refute.” He added in the combox“If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” I’m always one to oblige people’s wishes, so I decided to do a series of posts in reply.

It’s also been said, “be careful what you wish for.”  If Bob responds to this post, and makes me aware of it, his reply will be added to the end along with my counter-reply. If you don’t see that at the end, rest assured that he either hasn’t replied, or didn’t inform me that he did. Bob’s words will be in blue. To find these posts, word-search “Seidensticker” on my atheist page or in my sidebar search (near the top).

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Bob, in the midst ofone of his typical (rather ludicrous) “throw out ten one-liners at once to give an illusion of strength” bloviations, exclaimed: “Why doesn’t God make his existence obvious to everyone?” He linked in that sentence to his article, “The Most Powerful Argument Against Christianity” (8-10-16).  There he notes (rather comically, from where I sit) some of the things that Christians contend are instances of God revealing Himself to mankind:

God did appear to people, . . . as smoke and fire to the Israelites during the Exodus. Jesus did miracles, he healed people, he multiplied food, he controlled nature, and he raised the dead. And consider the apostles . . . witnessing the miracles of Jesus . . . Paul’s Damascus road experience . . . 

He breezily dismisses all of this with a line: “how about some of that evidence for us today?” That’s standard atheist argumentation: we can’t trust anything in the past; above all, anything that purports to be miraculous, because David Hume (who was a deist and not an atheist) “proved” in the 18th century that no miracles can ever occur (a universal negative), etc., and anything that relies primarily or solely on the report of those lying, deceitful Christians! Bob goes on to claim:

[N]onresistant unbelief exists. This is unbelief by honest seekers who are eager to know God but reject God’s existence for lack of evidence. Assuming that God desires to have a relationship with us, merely knowing that the other person exists is the mandatory first step in a relationship. God’s existence should be obvious to these seekers and yet it isn’t. This is easily explained by concluding that God doesn’t exist. . . . 

[It’s] probably right that not everyone would believe if God made his existence plain, but that’s a helluva lot more evidence than we have now. Maybe not everybody, but surely millions or even billions more would be convinced and believe if God made his existence clear. 

At this point we’re dying of curiosity to know what Bob — in his infinite wisdom — thinks would do the trick. He tells us:

Let’s make clear what compelling evidence for God would look like. This wouldn’t simply be the clouds parting one day just as you wondered if God existed. It wouldn’t be unexpectedly coming across a photo of a beloved relative who had died. I’m talking about something really compelling—something like everyone in the world having the same dream the same night in which God simply and clearly summarizes his plan. Could that be dismissed as alien technology or mind-control drugs rather than God? Perhaps, but this evidence would be vastly more compelling than the feeble arguments apologists are saddled with today.

Really? This is rather weak. He opts for the “early Bob Dylan method” of determining God’s existence. I refer to Talkin’ World War III Blues (1963), which includes the wonderful line:  “I’ll letcha be in my dream if I can be in yers.”

It surprises me quite a bit that he would propose such a subjective, flimsy scenario of God proving Himself. Usually, atheists — pressed to say what would suffice — will suggest something fantastic like “John 3:16 written in the stars.” Now that would be a rather spectacular confirmation (I agree). But Bob will settle for a universal dream.

This is fascinating, because he, like most atheists I have ever met, continually squawks about empirical evidence being necessary in order for God’s existence to be made manifest. But a universal dream is not empirical at all (at least not in the sense of being observable, replicable, etc.; i.e., standard scientific method). Materialist atheists would say it is empirical because the dream came from brain waves and processes, etc. (but that’s a long discussion itself).

This sort of thing could and would be shot down by skeptics and atheists and agnostics in the same way that Jesus’ Resurrection has been shot down by atheists (the mass hallucination theory: one of their favorite anti-Resurrection rationalization fairy tales). The Bible says that 500 people were eyewitnesses to the risen Jesus. So they were all hallucinating, according to this. It’s just as easy to extend that skeptical take to the whole world. They’re all deluded.

After all, there are about 2.2 billion Christians in the world right now who all claim to have had some sort of encounter with God; some reason to believe and “know” that He exists (and that He took on flesh and came to earth as Jesus of Nazareth), and who worship Him. That’s completely irrelevant to atheists. They blow it off as of no import. In the same fashion, the atheist type could blow off a purported dream. Since atheists would also be having the dream, they would have to be skeptical of their own dream. No problem for them! When it comes to God, they always find a way to disbelieve.

Christians have all kinds of evidences (some going beyond merely empirical) for God. Two months ago, I summed them up in two sentences:

Nothing strictly / absolutely “proves” God’s existence. But I think His existence is exponentially more probable and plausible than atheism, based on the cumulative effect of a multitude of good and different types of (rational) theistic arguments, and the utter implausibility, incoherence, irrationality, and unacceptable level of blind faith of alternatives.

In case someone asks what all these cumulative evidences are, I have collected a few hundred scholarly articles that present them:

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All of this is insufficient for atheists to be persuaded. They blow all of them off with a condescending smirk, and continue to describe belief in Christianity as equivalent to belief in leprechauns, unicorns, the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny, and Santa Claus. I’ve often challenged them — I note in passing — to show me a 2800-year philosophical history of serious, tough-minded defense — by many of the greatest minds in the history of the world — of any of these things, like we have for God, and thus far have received no answer.
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It’s by no means obvious or apparent that the “universal dream” would be sufficient to convince atheists.  Some atheists simply don’t want to believe, or reject God, whether He exists or not (i.e., either the concept or the actual Being). They want no part of Him. One might possibly posit that Bob himself is perhaps of this mindset, since he has invented a host of imaginary traits of the supposed God of the Bible and Christianity, that are all false — and I have been systematically showing how they are slanderous caricatures (e.g., that God supposedly loves child sacrifice and chattel slavery and rape, and hates human free will).
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Thus far, Bob has utterly ignored my previous twelve critiques (in this series) of his arguments. Not exactly a strong showing of intellectual confidence, is it? He challenged me (see the intro. at the top), I took it up, and he immediately fled for the hills, where he has been cowering ever since (hoping I would tire of this endeavor and go away; sorry Bob!). I encourage you, the reader, to make up your own mind as to how to interpret his behavior. I don’t think it’s rocket science!
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I have distinguished between (and argue that the New Testament also distinguishes between) God-Rejecters vs. Open-Minded Agnostics. I have also argued that according to the Bible (specifically Romans 2), the possibility of salvation for the latter category, remains, and that it is wrong for Christians to classify atheists en masse as wicked and evil. We can’t judge souls. That’s God’s job.
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The question then remains: “how much does a resistance (either irrational or ignorant or hyper-rational or merely emotional or selfishly motivated) to God’s existence play into proposed ‘compelling’ demonstrations of His existence? “Bob gave this lip service in one clause above, but on the whole, atheists minimize this factor in a way in which Christians do not. The Bible describes this sort of resistance as a profound causal factor:
Luke 16:27-31 (RSV) [Jesus telling a story] And he said, `Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house, [28] for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ [29] But Abraham said, `They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ [30] And he said, `No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ [31] He said to him, `If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.'” 
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Luke 13:34  [Jesus] O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! 
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Romans 1:21-23, 25 [Paul] for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. [22] Claiming to be wise, they became fools, [23] and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles. . . . [25] . . . they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen. 
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Matthew 10:14-15 [Jesus talking to His disciples, sent out to preach the gospel] And if any one will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. [15] Truly, I say to you, it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomor’rah than for that town. 
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John 6:60-66 [Jesus talking about the Eucharist / Holy Communion] Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” [61] But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at it, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? [62] Then what if you were to see the Son of man ascending where he was before? [63] It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. [64] But there are some of you that do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who those were that did not believe, and who it was that would betray him. [65] And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” [66] After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him.
In the biblical, Christian worldview, again, non-belief can sometimes be from pure, “innocent” ignorance; simply not knowing, or it could flow from stiff-necked resistance and rebellion and rejection. There are atheists of both types. But if they are of the latter type, no demonstration of God’s existence will be compelling to them, no matter what, because they don’t want it to be. It’s the iron will taking precedence over the mind.
In the final analysis, the Christian view is that God’s existence is apparent to all from His creation:
Romans 1:18-20 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth. [19] For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  [20] Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse; 
I would contend that this bare statement can be greatly elaborated upon in the teleological and cosmological arguments. It’s true that God’s character is not as easily revealed and is another issue. We believe that that is revealed in His inspired revelation of Himself, in the Bible.
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But to the atheist who keeps contending that “God ought to reveal Himself: make it clear!”, we say, “He already has! You either don’t see it, for whatever reason, or don’t want to (won’t) see or admit it.” We vigorously deny that He has not done so. And that’s just one of our 3,921,309 disagreements with atheists (but a very important one).
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Photo credit: Doubting Thomas, by Guercino (1591-1666) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]
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