Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”1
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed” (1 Peter 3:15).1
Atheism frequently demands that those who believe in God give proof of His existence. It claims the requirement of such proof before the willingness to believe God does exist. The evidence for them is “proof.” Apart from this demand for faith being a contradiction, atheism’s approach is a contradiction. To demand perceived (or seen) proof for believing (faith is in the unseen) is an untenable demand. Proof relies on the senses (the seen) but faith relies on the unseen. While faith calls for evidence from unseen reality (Hebrews 11:1; i.e., promises), seen reality is limited and thereby not an adequate means for proof of God although seen reality offers substantial evidence for God.
A person has a right to their own opinion, but they do not have a right to define evidence or proof according to their own terms. Those who also demand proof fail to realize that irrefutable proof is not scientific. Therefore, atheism stands on an unscientific ground while claiming to hold to scientific methods. That which is held in theory is not necessarily held at proof.
Many theories and hypotheses do not stand on proof. Yet those who form them as well as those who work with them accept them without the same level of proof as atheism. For if it did, theory and hypotheses could not be refutable. Theories over time have been refuted or struck down. For a theory to be struck down does not alarm those who hold to the theology of atheism. When someone in the scientific field establishes a theory, atheism does not demand an ill-defined level of proof they demand for God’s existence.
Proof and evidence are not the same although one may call for the other. They are different, otherwise they would not be different words with different meanings. Their use depends on the particular discipline in which they are used. For example, the field of mathematics seeks proof in equations for solving a mathematical problem while in the field of law, jurists, judges, and attorneys seek evidence. Evidence does not necessarily “prove” a case, but it can erase doubt.
Evidence can be used for proof. However, it does not necessarily guarantee it or make anything certain. What if certain evidence omits a fact? That fact can have a substantial bearing for the proof of something. We live in a world full of limitations. Such limitations easily lend to the omission of facts for establishing evidence or at most the certainty of something. Even if we have an overwhelming amount of evidence toward substantiating a thing or theory, our limitations are giant variables that stand in the way of any proof. Consequently, the demand of proof for God is an absurd demand. For one, it requires material world proof for God who is not of the material world. That material world proof at the least is in the imagination as in the case of an atheist who while demanding proof for God imagines for what the atheist demands proof.
The person demanding such proof has not adequately worked through the necessary argumentative processes and limitations that stand in the way of yielding any evidence lending to a proof. Furthermore, the person making the demand ignores the disciplines in which proof and evidence are called for and applied. It is a demand without meaning because, it is one in which the one making the demand does not consider that not even atheism can produce the proof against God’s existence. Atheism cannot even imagine non-existence the non-existence of God (See Anselm’s Proslogium, Chapter Three). Yet atheism demands proof for what it imagines to be God. An atheist may say, “Since I do not believe God exist, I do not imagine God.” However, the the atheist speaks of God, he or she has already imagined and shaped one’s conception of God. To that, the atheist may reply, “I can imagine that which is false or fictitious.” Indeed, anyone can imagine fiction, and the creators of fiction do this. However, they do not call everything they imagine God. If God did not exist, they could not even speak of God, for He would not arise in their imagination. This is a very different point than imagining fiction. One can imagine fictitious beings because they extrapolate such fictitious things from what already exist.
This returns us to the previous statement that a person cannot imagine or even speak of that which does not exist. For if something does not exist, it cannot be imagined. Therefore, it takes far more faith to believe in that which one cannot even imagine or of what one cannot speak (that is, the non-existence of God) than it does to place one’s faith in that which one can imagine. Atheists claim no God and thereby no faith. In one way this is correct while in another it is incorrect. It is correct in that faith in the non-existence of God is a giant leap of faith, which is no more than irrational presumption. For it is a naked presumption and not genuine faith to imagine non-existence of God, which is an impossibility. In this sense, it takes faith divorced from reason and the entire realm of reality. For that which does not exist is not part of reality.
Then why does atheism demand proof of God’s existence? Because atheists have already reached conclusion for themselves that He does not exist. They have done that because they reject God as authority over their lives and in doing so place themselves in the precarious position of an autonomous person independent of God. They do so while being dependent on many other invisible, unknown, or currently unknowable things in the created material universe.
The most common method of rejection is denial. Denial is not a reply on the merits for any position, especially for the non-existence of God. It is simply positing a naked declaration stripped of reason. This stance is a contradiction and irrational position for atheism because it never demands proof for all of the invisible components of the material world’s existence as well as those things that threaten existence. Yet atheism demands proof for something they imagine, that is, their conception of God. Atheism or those who hold to atheism have already entertained that for which they demand proof while denying the very thing for which they demand proof. This is a contradiction.
That is, atheism’s demand for proof depends on what an atheist imagines about God and not on reality or what another position may hold. Consequently, atheism often calls for proof for a straw man god, one it imagines or alleges Christians hold. For when atheism demands proof, those who are atheists already entertain a god for which they demand proof. The very fact that they imagine the divine gives evidence that God exist, because as noted in a previous article, one could not even imagine God if He did not exist. That goes for any sense of divinity.
By establishing an imagined god and demanding proof for it, atheism alleges victory by asserting that no one has presented proof for the god of the atheist’s imagination. Atheism does not outwardly define the god of whom it demands proof while holding to that which it demands proof. Many atheists also do not refer to the sacred writings of those who follow the God of those writings such as the Christian Bible. Many atheists also refuse to read the very book Christians claim presents the real God unless they read it for citations to use against Christians to present a god who is unjust or a tyrant or another straw man. Rather they reject the Bible. In doing so, they fail to entertain knowledge that offers them evidence of God and then claim without having read it as it should be read, according to common reading skills, that its contents are fantasy. They claim this without offering any refutable scholastic evidence.
This is irrational, for it rejects the knowledge they do not have and refuse to entertain. It is also irrational to demand proof for an imagined god. This places atheism in a very precarious position in its refusal to entertain knowledge while demanding “proof” of God’s existence when the evidence of such proof could lie in the knowledge they do not possess and not so much in the imagination of the atheist. It is one thing to demand a defense from another concerning that person’s theology, but it is quite another matter to offer one’s own defense for a held theology. Quite frequently, atheism’s defense of its theology is demanding proof from theists for the existence of their God. This demand is not an adequate defense of a position.
Atheism technically is a theology in the proper sense of the term. A denial that it is not leads to a redefinition of terms like “theology.” Atheism is a theology of the non-existence of God (or any gods, but particularly the Christian God). Atheism rests on faith in both the non-existence of God and concerning the invisible things of the material world. By claiming that God does not exist, their faith rest on that proposition, that is, on the non-existence of God, for atheism cannot provide evidence of God’s non-existence. Therefore, they simply must believe. Atheism also rests on faith concerning the things they do not see as well as on things of which they have no knowledge, the invisible things of the created material world of which there are many. Any denial atheists make that the must have faith is a redefinition of faith to escape from beleiving they must have faith.
One person does not have knowledge of everything – physics and all other sciences. Yet, atheism demands proof of God while not demanding the same level of proof for the things of which they have no knowledge. It also fails to consider the context and discipline of which proof is required (such as mathematics versus the legal profession). They believe in those who do have that knowledge (scientists, their teachers, parents, and so on) while pointing to Christians as foolish for believing in those who wrote the Bible and disclose God in it. This is still another contradiction. The glaring part of this contradiction is that many atheists engage in ridicule of Christians for believing God and the Bible while being accepting of many unseen realities for which there is no proof or may not be proof.
Again, ridicule is not a defense for one’s position. Rather, it is an irrational response. In doing so, atheism not only dismisses any argument theists put forward, but it offers no evidence for atheism. In essence, atheism exercises similar belief by believing in those who have more knowledge than they concerning the material world, which holds many unseen and unknown realities. This is also a contradiction of atheism.
What then should be the Christian reply to those who refuse to believe God? It should be the same as it would be for anyone else. Present Christ. Of course, such presentation requires more discussion than a two word sentence. It is important to first determine the seriousness of the one to whom we present Christ and the gospel. The backlash of ridicule or scoffing shows no seriousness for engaging prolonged discussion on a peer to peer basis. To attempt to give an answer to someone who holds the position of ridicule for the God of the Bible with the gospel would be futile. This does not mean that we withhold the gospel message. We give warning of the rejection of God in a similar manner Jesus gave to Nicodemus (John 3:19-20).
As Christians, we have three tools God has given us for encountering those who do not know or yet believe in God and His salvation through Christ: the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and God’s gift of reason. The Bible is God’s disclosure of Himself. He really wants people to know Him. However, two major barriers stand in the way: one’s alienation from Him and separate realms. We are of the material (temporal) realm, and God is of the divine realm, and He alone exists there. To know God, He must reveal Himself. God does so through revelation. God revealed Himself to us through His word found in the Bible. Not only this, but He comes up beside His word through the Holy Spirit to not only enable us to understand God but also to relate to Him. God actually crossed the vast barrier between the divine realm and the material realm in the form of a man, Jesus Christ.
God has also gifted us with the capacity to reason toward comprehension of His word and its disclosure of how to relate to Him through the revelation of Jesus Christ. We can use these tools for communicating to those who have never heard of the gospel and who do not know God. The Holy Spirit, then, works within the individual to give understanding just as He did in us. Only God can penetrate the mind and conscience of individuals to receive His message and place faith in Jesus Christ. Only the Holy Spirit can change resistance and ridicule to faith and worship.
Both the Apostle Paul and Apostle Peter explain how Christians engage reason in sharing their faith. Paul states that we use persuasion (2 Corinthians 5:11). That is, we engage reason to call people to faith in God. He also writes that we meet reason with reason (2 Corinthians 10:5). The advantage of the reason we use is that it points to God, receives aid from the Holy Spirit, and involves the knowledge of God as opposed to the knowledge of worldly philosophy. It breaches the barrier of the material world and calls upon people to reject reasoning that excludes God but rather focuses on that which is eternal.
Peter writes that we give a defense for our hope. We have the only hope available in light of the hopelessness of the present postmodern self-reliant age. Such defense engages our minds for presenting the claims of the gospel. Since we serve and relate to the God of hope, we call all people to it, but not by ourselves but by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is in this power, which resides in the gospel, where our confidence and hope dwells. Atheism has no hope, which is a fatalistic theology, because it is self-reliant and seeks autonomy. This is a position of fantasy and not reality. All need the gospel message of Jesus Christ for life. Without it, one faces destruction whereas eternal life waits for all who believe the gospel.
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1 Nelson, Thomas (2009-02-18). Holy Bible, New King James Version (NKJV) (p. 1165). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition. Use by permission.