Monday, November 27, 2006

Does God Exist?

Well... yes. Which is why those theists who debate the subject have the unfair advantage.

One of the unfortunate aspects of growing up in faith is that one goes through strange phases such as being too cool for C.S. Lewis. (I am told by those who went to the SBL/AAR that some prominent Christian thinkers are still stuck in that old rut). Sad thing is that this phase is often hit on before one reads what Lewis actually was an expert on.

Another of the unfortunate phases is dismissal of the traditional arguments for the existence of God. In the (legitimate) wish to not be Josh McDowell, one disparages apologetics as a quasi-fundamentalist pursuit for those who feel the need to "prove" God. (Like, say, Saint Paul.) I'll have to admit I was in the phase myself, which is perhaps why I put off for so long listening to these two mp3 debates:
1. Craig vs. Dacey in Does God Exist?
2. Peter Kreeft's God's Existence. (there's also more at Veritas)
As William Lane Craig made his arguments, I'll admit however they at times rang a bit hollow. For example, his insistence at one point that Christians resort too quickly to faith in the resurrection when there is sufficient evidence was quite the stretch. Craig does make belief seem a bit too facile at points, and one can imagine Kierkegaard protesting "Where's the leap?", or at least Zizek complaining that some Christian faith lacks a degree of existential angst. Yet, I resisted the temptation to entitle this post "A pox on both your houses" (i.e. overconfident theists and atheists) because Craig's arguments are more tightly formulated and simply better than his adversary's - and that is a helpful service indeed.

Craig may have a Ned Flanders vibe, but he is consequently a very kind debater, and someone who got a Ph.D. in philosophy with John Hick (no friend of faith) and a Ph.D. in theology with Pannenberg is not lazy minded. One wishes that Craig's opponent Dacey was a little more prepared in argumentation (or at least that his jokes were funny). But as I said, being on the losing side of an argument never helps. Should someone harbor lingering fear that atheists have good arguments, such fear probably won't survive an attentive listen to Dacey, who did a great job of tearing apart a God that no Christian who passed Sunday School 101 could believe in.

But there was something a bit more natural in Peter Kreeft's defense, which covers the same territory a bit more fluidly (he's been at it longer), and ably defends against just as much hostile fire at the end. Kreeft seems a bit more aware of the mystery of faith, and that the part of God that can be rationally "proven" is a slim slice indeed. Kreeft does a better job of frontlining the fact that though faith is not irrational, it certainly is transrational. This may have to do with his Catholic tradition being more deeply rooted than Craig's Evangelicalism, but I liked them both.

For the Orthodox approach, Hart's defense against the problem of evil is indispensable (and underutilized). And certainly nothing beats the offensive wisdom of Blaise Pascal:
"God has given us evidence sufficiently clear to convince those with an open heart and mind. Yet evidence sufficiently vague so as not to compel those whose hearts and minds are closed."