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Dec 21 2011

Denying the Undeniable—and failing

A few people have questioned what I call “the Undeniable Fact” (i.e. that God consistently fails to show up in real life), on the grounds that believers will surely just insist that He does show up, to them at least. My argument, however, is that believers cannot deny the Undeniable Fact without inevitably demonstrating the truth of what I say. Luckily for me, O ye of little faith, a commenter named Nathan has taken issue with my claims, thus giving me a chance to document my contention. He writes:

What evidence do you have that God does not show up? According to the Bible, Jesus was God, in which case God most definitely has shown up. Obviously this can be discounted if you believe that the Bible is wrong on that account, but it is no less substantiated than your own claim.

Notice, his first challenge is to demand evidence of God’s failure to show up, and yet by that very question he provides evidence that what I say is true. If I said, “You faith in the existence of carrots is questionable because carrots do not show up in real life,” you wouldn’t refute me by asking for evidence that carrots do not show up, you’d easily demonstrate my error by directing me to the produce section of the nearest grocery.

God does not show up in real life. He shows up in the stories men tell, like the story of Jesus in the Bible, but He does not show up in real life, even for Nathan. Nathan can challenge my source of knowledge, and question whether I have any actual evidence, but for him, at least, his very question provides the evidence. God does not make any real-world, in-person, face-to-face appearances in Nathan’s life, which means that, for Nathan at least, what I said is entirely true: the Undeniable Fact is indeed undeniable, with the Inescapable Consequence that his faith is necessarily faith in men. God has not personally showed up in his life to give him an opportunity to develop a faith in God, so faith in man is his only option.

As I mentioned Monday, the Undeniable Fact leaves believers with a few unfortunate alternatives. Nathan appears to have chosen the alternative of coming up with good reasons why God does not show up in real life (thus demonstrating once again that my description is correct).

God does not necessarily become materially present just because we ask him to, but if the Bible accurately represents God in this regard, that should be of no surprise. God did not show up to the Israelites when they were in the desert. Neither did he show up when he allowed them to be conquered by the Babylonians.

See? There’s even a Biblical precedent for God’s failure to show up. Nathan would like to deny the Undeniable Fact, but when pressed for a rebuttal, what he ends up defending is—surprise—God’s failure to show up in real life. It’s not just that He “doesn’t necessarily” show up, it’s that in the real world today, in your life and my life and Nathan’s life, God does not show up. At all. Ever.

The reason this is important is because the Bible is a story told by men, and the only way we have of knowing whether or not this story is true is by comparing it to what we see in the real world. If we believe what men say, knowing that it’s not consistent with what we find in real life, then that’s not just faith in men, it’s actual gullibility. Oops.

Nathan’s next defense is to suggest that perhaps God just doesn’t want to spend time with us—that He’s a Heavenly Father who has better things to do than waste His limited resources by showing up in person for any tangible face-to-face interactions with His (*ahem*) “beloved” children.

Does it achieve God’s purpose to appear to anyone on cue? If not then it is invalid to argue that a lack of evidence for the material presence of God is evidence in itself of his non-existence.

Notice the key phrase “on cue,” as if it were up to man to initiate a personal relationship with God by whistling for Him like you’d call a dog. Because a loving Savior would never spontaneously reach out to those in need, right? But again, this is not really a refutation of the Undeniable Fact that God consistently fails to show up in real life. Nathan is giving us reasons why God does not show up, thus confirming again that He doesn’t.

Ironically, Nathan is jumping to the conclusion that God’s failure to show up might be attributed to non-existence. But the Inescapable Consequence is not “therefore God does not exist.” The Inescapable Consequence is that, in God’s absence, people have no opportunity to put their faith in God. The most they can do is to have faith in men, and that’s certainly bad enough, since faith in man can’t save you. But Nathan, on his own, saw the connection between God’s failure to show up in real life and the probability that He does not exist. Hence his inevitable defense of God’s failure to show up, even when he’s trying to refute my claim that God does not show up.

After I blogged about he unfortunate alternatives that await those who would deny the Undeniable, Nathan tried again, with even worse results. I’ll save that for another post, though. Stay tuned.

18 comments

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  1. 1
    george.w

    It isn’t that God doesn’t show up; it’s that He is a master of “The Art Of Not Being Seen”!
    /MontyPython

    1. 1.1
      Len

      He’s like a ninja.

  2. 2
    mikespeir

    If I said, “You faith in the existence of carrots is questionable because carrots do not show up in real life,” you wouldn’t refute me by asking for evidence that carrots do not show up, you’d easily demonstrate my error by directing me to the produce section of the nearest grocery.

    “Ah,” Nathan might counter, “but I can walk into that grocer with my eyes open or with my eyes closed. If I walk in with my eyes closed, no one will take me seriously if I walk out again complaining that carrots don’t show up in real life. Likewise, I can direct you to your nearest Gospel-preaching church. And if you walk out later still insisting God hasn’t shown up, why shouldn’t I assume you went in with your eyes closed?”

    Yeah, yeah, I know. Whose side am I on, anyway? Just for giggles, though, what’s your answer, DD?

    1. 2.1
      Brian M

      But your exercise in devil’s advocacy (LOL) shows the very problem: The “presense” of God in such churches is not physical or demonstrable in any concrete way. The “presence” is a feeling that the congregation experiences (mostly…not everyone, and those who do not wonder what is wrong with them).

      Is this “spiritual blindness” or an unwillingness to self-hypnotize into the dominant group think?

      heck…by “your” standards, the loa of Voudun have exhbited far more visible manifestations than the Christian God. Should we all run out and sacrifice a chicken?

      1. mikespeir

        And we find ourselves back in an epistemological quagmire, where we seem to spend a lot of time when talking to these folks.

    2. 2.2
      Deacon Duncan

      I’d just walk into a grocery store and come out with a picture of some carrots, which I will offer to trade you for a picture of God showing up at your church.

      1. mikespeir

        But they’ll just protest that the way we detect God isn’t the same way we detect carrots.

      2. Brian M

        That’s because their definition of “detect” is pretty loosy-goosey.

        “After an hour listening to a rousing speech while surrounded by people similarly working themselves into a emotional frenzy, I feel all warm and fuzzy and, most importantly of all, CERTAIN about things…hence…GOD.”

      3. mikespeir

        I agree. The problem is getting them to agree.

      4. Deacon Duncan

        That’s ok, I’ll accept any verifiable form of detection.

      5. mikespeir

        Yeah. At this point I have trouble even simulating their responses. They, of course, will tell you the evidence is verifiable: it’s verified in the experience of every true believer. But that’s just the problem, isn’t it? It’s not the believers who need to be convinced. Interestingly, it’s not verified in the experience of those who aren’t. That’s pretty tell-tale, I’d say. But, naturally, they can’t play along. “Oh, but it is verified in your experience!” they’ll charge. “You know it’s true, deep down.” Perhaps the best reply to that is to roll your eyes and walk away.

  3. 3
    Steerpike

    “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence…”

    Oh wait, sure it is! Absence of evidence is actually pretty compelling evidence that something doesn’t exist, or at least a strong reason to accept “absence” until someone comes along and produces evidence of “presence”.

    1. 3.1
      sqlrob

      My stock response to this trope is:

      “There is no evidence of an elephant behind me. Therefore there could be an elephant behind me?”

  4. 4
    Paddy

    How do they NOT see the mental gymnastics and cognitive contortions they perform to justify their sky fairy?

    They put SO much effort into twisting the laws of physics, or the drivel in a book, or REALITY. How are they not exhausted by the effort?

    If you have to try THAT hard to desperately hold up a house of cards in gale force winds…don’t you eventually conclude that it’s nonsense?

    I always come back to the same conclusion when looking at their three ring circus…fear. For some, the despair of no purpose or the fear of an ultimate end is simply too much to bear. What other explanation is there?

    They can’t just be happy to be alive, here and now, and make the most of it. It’s just too overwhelming to face reality.

  5. 5
    Spanish Inquisitor

    …you wouldn’t refute me by asking for evidence that carrots do not show up, you’d easily demonstrate my error by directing me to the produce section of the nearest grocery

    …or more demonstrably, by sticking a carrot up the most convenient orifice on your body.

    Nathan also seems to have a serious misunderstanding of Burden of Proof.

    1. 5.1
      davidct

      That is really the basis of Nathan’s argument. He is demanding that the negative be proved. this is that same argument as asking a skeptic to prove that atheism is true. It is the apologetic attempt to shift the burden of proof which is necessary before they can get any traction to their empty arguments.

      They have to resort to such tricks because the invisible and the non-existent look so much alike.

  6. 6
    The Lorax

    The only evidence for god in every day life is that which we cannot explain, but if we apply Occam’s Razor, we must tend toward the simpler explanation… and in this case, the simpler explanation is that we simply cannot explain it. To attribute to it a highly complex deity with rites and rituals and a history that directly contradicts that which we CAN explain is just silly.

  7. 7
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    What evidence do you have that God does not show up?

    Honk! Wrong. You don’t get to put the burden of proof on the person who isn’t making a positive claim.

  1. 8
    Ever-changing Morality | Unreasonable Faith

    [...] because we have no “nonhuman source.” To that end, his response is much like Deacon Duncan’s Undeniable Fact: God does not show up in the real world, so everything we say about God must come [...]

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