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.