Saturday, January 26, 2008

Is God the God of the gaps? A rebuttal to Samuel Skinner.

In the comments section of the previous post Sam wrote,
God contradicts logic, so I don't see how one would butress the other. Additionally this is the classic how do you know it exists if you can't see it, aka if you doubt god, why do you believe in love? The basic flaw is saying that god is an answer, instead of admitting that it is simply a gap in knowledge. In short this is a god of gaps arguement. (Atheists can't explain x, but theism can. Therefore atheism is false) It is the same as saying history doesn't teach you how to play the flute so history is false.
This deserves a reply.

The Christian position is not that we simply refer to God to explain gaps in knowledge. To say that this is the Christian position is to argue against a straw man. Rather, the Christian position is that all knowledge presupposes the existence of God. The Christian position is that nothing whatsoever can be explained unless God exists. God is the God of the gaps and the non-gaps because He is the God of everything. Both the explained and unexplained cannot be account for unless God exists. That's the position the atheist will have to contend with if he wants to argue against Christianity (though we hope repentance and submission to Jesus Christ will be preferred -- and I don't say that lightly).

Let me add two clarifications. The Christian position is not that the atheist can't explain things or that he doesn't believe things which are true, rather, we say that the extent to which the atheist has any successes in his reasoning and explanation of things is only possible to the extent that he assumes the truth of the Christian worldview. The other clarification is this: there are no gaps in knowledge, not for God. There are gaps for human beings due to our finitude and the noetic effects of sin, but not for God.

Now that we've set forth the Christian position, let's turn our attention to Sam's position. In response to the previous post he admits that the atheist cannot arrive at a proper explanation of the laws of logic: "... it is simply a gap in knowledge." This is a devastating concession of cosmic proportions. One must eventually ask the atheist whether the laws of logic apply to that quote itself. How can laws of logic, which for the atheist are unexplainable, be applied to a gap in knowledge about the laws of logic which can't be explained by the atheist? Sam's position is self-defeating. In fact, Sam can't know whether anything he says whatsoever is true because it can't be known to him wether the laws of logic have been properly applied (since for him the laws of logic are a gap in knowledge.) Thus, Sam has no basis for saying, "God contradicts logic ... ."

He also wants us to think that the following is faulty reasoning: "Atheists can't explain x, but theism can. Therefore atheism is false." Well, it depends what you mean by "explain." I've said that atheists can explain things but only to the extent that they assume the truth of the Christian explanation of things. If the atheist doesn't assume the existence of God, he can't explain anything whatsoever. Therefore, because of that, atheism is false. Therefore, because of that, Christianity is true.

One final point about gaps in knowledge. The atheist believes that there are things unknown. This poses a problem of cosmic proportions for the atheist. If that which is not known can be known though it isn't yet, we have to wonder whether that unknown knowledge will affect the very process of knowing itself, in which case the atheist can't be certain whether he rightly knows anything now. And if that unknown is to become known, can we know it from our current method of knowing? These aren't silly philosophical games here, rather, it highlights the absurdity of the atheist position. The atheist is left not being able to know anything for certain because he can't eliminate the possibility that the unknown will change the very foundation or basis of knowing. But the Christian worldview can make sense out of knowledge and gaps in knowledge because everything is known by God. Everything is interpreted. Everything is analyzed. Everything is explained. Everything is accounted for because God is omniscient. Human beings can't know everything but they can have knowledge since God reveals knowledge through general and special revelation. In the Christian worldview, the human unknowns can't change the preconditions of knowing because God always is who He is. But for the atheist to admit there are gaps in knowledge is to admit his own defeat.


Anonymous said...

Samuel Skinner
None of this proves God exists, much less your God. Do you want me to recount the errors?

First of most of the post is nonsense. What is the Christian worldview? Is the Christian worldview is necesary for knowledge, how have non-Christans achieved knowledge?

I didn't say atheists can't explain logic, I said I can't. I also can't explain computer technology, but I am using this computer pretty well.

I can actually see double think here. You say that science isn't reliable because it can be completely overtuned, but Christianity is constant. Then you qualify- Christianity is constant, but their our gaps in human being knowledge. Well, knowing about god is knowledge, so...

Finally science doesn't constantly change. It constantly expands. Theories change. Data is constant. So feel free to doubt theories that don't have a cetury of backing, but don't use that as an excuse to doubt the scientific method or raw data.

If I can't explain logic, I can't argue it contradicts God? I don't have to because "statements are valid or invalid independent of eho the source is". The very principles of logic you claim require god contradict and make him impossible.

Finally your biggest flaw- you don't say how logic requires god. You say that you need God to provide a basis for everything. I have news for you- just because something is desireable doesn't mean it exists. Also if God to provide the grounding for evidenve and logic, how do you know he exists in the first place? You can't use personal experience or the Bible, because under your definition they are also evidence. So you seem to be completely disconnected from reality. Bummer.

In the interest of fairness i am going to list all the propositions that are unanswerable:
1 Do other people concious?
2 Does reality exist or is it only in my mind?
3 Is reality random and we have just gotten an impossibly luck roll so far?
4 Is there things that exist, but don't interact with our world

Most people don't sacrifice their mind to have certainty about these questions. The don't care because, by definition, they don't affect the real world.

PS It is nice you took out an entire post to rebut me. Complete garbage,but hew- it is the thought that counts.

Peter said...

Hello Sam.

I hope you don't mind I used an entire post to reply to your comments. But I take challenges to Christianity very seriously. Christ demands that we give care and attention to people who want to know more about the Christian faith and to give an answer to people who call belief in God irrational. Maybe that sounds weird to you given your outlook on life, but in terms of the Christian worldview it makes sense. And I hope you don't take anything I said personally. If I sounded like I was being arrogant then I take responsibility for that.

You ask some valuable questions and raise some very important issues, so if it's ok with you I'd like to reply in a new post. I'll probably have time to do that tonight, I think. In the meantime, feel free to peruse the rest of this blog and maybe you'll find some answers.


Anonymous said...

Samuel Skinner
Nah, I'm good with your post. On the subject of arrogance, I think religion is inherently arrogant, but that doesn't bother me. Either you're (generic you in this case) arrogant and you're right (annoying) or you're arrogant and you're wrong (funny).

However a responce would be better. I will make people think even if I have to wreak my wrists in the attempt! (or throat as the case may be)

Anonymous said...

To be quite honest - I think what Samuel Skinner is doing is pathetic. He is going around online searching for blogs about God just to mock them and say “Atheism exists because God doesn’t. It’s simple really.” He is so bored and empty with his own life, he spends his time on the computer just to say negative things about people who are actually happy unlike him.
Peter – I don’t know you, and I don’t know your entire view on life, but you are entitled. From the looks of you, you believe in God, therefore I presume you love Him. You may not be able to prove he exists but you still stand up for him. I admire you. I however think that by allowing Samuel’s comments to post you are wasting your time by replying to it. Reading it is one thing to respect what he has to say, but since all he is doing is trying to provoke you – it won’t do you any good. So far not only is he dissing you on your beliefs, he is also making a fool of you by answering him. He wants you to feel bad about your faith, and feel bad you can’t prove it. I think you are doing enough by writing about it – and at least writing what you feel is real. Don’t let him push you around or get to you – because he doesn’t care what you have to say, he’s just looking for a pointless debate where he just confuses you so bad you either concede or you question your faith.
And to you Sam – I will pray for you that you may find happiness and the meaning to your seemingly empty and useless life. Oh and by the way, you posted on my blog – thanks for your opinion but don’t expect to get published again.


De Ha said...

watch the King and I, specifically the scene where Anna tries to teach the King’s children geography.

That’s what we think of you. You refuse to learn, you’re arrogant, and you think you know more than you actually do.

There was a brief period in history where maps of the world only showed the East half of Australia. The west half was just blank. Why? Because Australia wasn’t completely explored yet. Old map makers weren’t *wrong*, they drew the areas they knew existed. To add dragons or whatever would have been dishonest.

You STILL take maps that say “here be dragons” seriously, and you think the fact that our maps are “incomplete” is a problem for us, not you.