Monday, June 25, 2007

Christianity vs. atheism and the burden of proof, part 2

In the last post the observation was made that the debate over God's existence is not simply about the one mere claim of God's existence, but rather that the atheist and the Christian reason about that claim in accordance with their worldview, a network of presuppositions about epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, etc. In other words, the debate over God's existence is actually a clash of entire worldviews, not merely over one or a few conflicting claims. The following was also noted:
Both the atheist and the Christian theist have assumptions about what is acceptable evidence, how much evidence is needed, what is compelling, what can be known by the evidence, and so on. Thus, when the dispute arises over who has the burden of proof, both the Christian and the unbeliever can be found reasoning about that issue in light of their presuppositions, in accordance with their worldview. Therefore, if the Christian and the atheist reason about the question of the burden of proof in a way that is consistent with their worlview they will necessarily end up disagreeing on this matter...
Why do the believer and unbeliever disagree over who has the burden of proof with respect to the debate over God's existence? Because their understanding of evidence and proof is already determined by their understanding of God. And yet, their understanding of God is itself one of the things in dispute between them! They both find themselves reasoning in a circle about who has the burden of proof.

In the Christian worldview, everything in this universe, both general revelation (all creation) and special revelation (miracles, theophanies, prophetic word, Scripture), all of reality, all of it is unavoidable, perspicuous, entirely compelling proof for God. Therefore, when the unbeliever says that he hasn't yet found any convincing evidence of God's existence he is reasoning in a circle. When the atheist says he hasn't come across any compelling proof for God existence he can only do so if he assumes that God doesn't exist. Yet that's the very thing in dispute! The unbeliever rejects the Christian position because he rejects the Christian position. The atheist is not at all neutral.

However, the Christian can also be found reasoning in a circle. When he hears the unbeliever say that the Christian has the burden of proof, the Christian thinks to himself, "That's ridiculous. Everything in this universe bears the stamp of the Creator" (so to speak). "Everything proves God's existence. If anything, the burden is proof is on the atheist." And if God exists then that's entirely true. But the unbeliever and the believer dispute God's existence.

How, then, can this dispute be resolved? If the Christian and the atheist reason about God and proof for His existence in terms of a worldview that is already conditioned by their beliefs about God, how can the two actually debate?

The answer is that we need to place the unbelieving worldview beside the Christian worldview and reason about each one on its own terms to see which one can provide the preconditions of intellgibility. We need, for the sake of argument, to reason about each worldview on its own terms in order to see which one can rationally makes sense of reality, including the very idea of the burden of proof. What you will discover is not only that the atheist wordlview doesn't correspond to reality, nor is it coherent, you'll also discover that the degree to which the unbeliever has any successes in his reasoning is attributed to his assuming the truth of the Christian worlview. Christianity is proven from the impossiblity of the contrary, and in this particular case as it relates to making sense out of proof and the burden of proof.

In the next post I'll present the Christian position concerning the burden of proof with respect to God's existence, and if time permits me (though I don't think it will) I'll reduce the competing unbelieving position to absurdity -- both of which in order to demonstrate that making sense of the idea of the burden of proof itself proves God's existence and exposes atheism as irrational.

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