[Note: While I had intended to avoid writing any more about atheism for a long, long time, I thought I’d add just a couple of more posts on the topic. It tends to be a bit slow around here on the weekend so I thought it couldn’t hurt to extend the conversation for one more day.]
My previous posts on atheism have been rather vague about why I am so dismissive of the belief system. For the record, the reason that I claim that atheism fails is because it cannot stand on its own as an internally consistent worldview: Epistemologically it cant account for reliable cognitive functioning; ethically it cant build a system of morality that isnt based on anything other than personal preference; metaphysically it cant really account for anything.
I admit that I could be wrong, but its hard to know since Ive never seen an atheistic worldview defended systematically. Intellectuals who are atheists tend to be very good at specialization since one part taken from the whole can be adequately explained. When they try to put it all together, though, they discover it is a futile endeavor.
This is actually one of the features I enjoy most about atheism. The inability of its adherents to create a systematic, coherent explanatory structure makes it easier for lazy debaters like me to show where it errs.
Indeed, I tend to spend time scrutinizing other worldviews because it’s much easier to point out where they err than to show how Christianity does not suffer from the same errors.
I’m like a slothful engineer in a bridge-building competition who finds it much easier to simply walk up to the competitor’s bridge and point out the cracks and gaping holes than to reexamine every square inch of his own creation in order to show that it is completely sound and able to bear the required load. It’s not that I have doubts about the ability of my worldview to withstand scrutinyI think Christian theism holds up better than any othersit’s just that I’m a bit lazy.
But what if I wasn’t such a lazy bum, how would I go about testing the truth of my own worldview? I believe the most fruitful approach is one outlined by the philosopher and apologist Norman Geisler who proposes that unaffirmability is the test for the falsity of a worldview and undeniability the test for the truth of a worldview.
To be clear, unaffirmability does not mean unsayable or unstatable . For example, I can claim “Red smells like a rainbow.” The statement is both sayable and statable even though it is completely meaningless. What makes something unaffirmable is when what is being affirmed is denied in the process or act of affirmation. If I were to affirm that I lack the ability to affirm anything, then I would be making an unaffirmable claim. What is unaffirmable is self-defeating and therefore false.
Conversely, we can also see that what is undeniable is true. Claiming that “triangles must have three sides” is undeniably true because it is definitionally undeniable . This is not to say that triangles exist but only that if they do exist they must, by definition, have three sides. Unfortunately, definitional undeniability only applies to tautologies and so is almost always useless when judging worldviews.
One exception to this rule, however, is the defintional undeniability of existence. Existenceat least my own existenceis not only definitionally undeniable but actually undeniable. In order to deny that I exist I would have to exist in order to make the denial.
Using this two-pronged criteria can help us weed out the worldviews that are unaffirmable and leave only those that are undeniable. But how would we judge between the worldviews that passed the test of undeniability? How would we narrow them down in order to choose the one that best corresponds to reality? I believe the best method is to judge the systematic consistency of a worldview. While it only leads to probabilistic certainty rather than undeniability, systematic consistency appears to be the most reasonable way to judge a worldview from within. We should adopt the worldview that is most internally consistent and comprehensive, the one that most corresponds to reality. In other words, we should adopt the worldview that is most true .
Of the three general categories of worldviews, I believe that pantheism is self-defeating and thus obviously unaffirmable, that atheism may (or may not) be unaffirmable but nevertheless fails the test of internal consistency, and that theism is undeniable, internally consistent, and true.
So why do I think that theism is undeniable? To adequately explain would require both an explication of Reformational epistemology and an extended cumulative case argument for the existence of God. I am, of course, too lazy to present such a case. Instead, Iíll simply go with a more simple and direct approach presented by the late Mortimer J. Adler .
Because it is possible for the entire universe to cease to exist, its existence must be radically contingent. Even if the universe has always existed and was uncaused (i.e., the view of steady-state cosmology), its existence would still require a causal agent to keep it from ceasing to exist, to prevent its exnihilation . Since no natural cause exnihilates anything, the cause must be supernatural. A supernatural being (one that is itself uncaused) is required to prevent the universe from turning into nothingness.
It is, from my point of view, undeniable that I exist. Because my existence is actually necessary while not being logically necessary, it follows that I have to rely on the existence of another being to prevent my exnihilation, my actuating a state of nonexistence. Because the universe (whose own existence is also not logically necessary) is inadequate to the task, the cause must be supernatural. If I exist then God must exist.
While I could certainly be wrong, I believe that it is undeniable that (a) the universe exists, (b) the universe did not have to exist (that the non-existence of the universe is a logical possibility), and (c) the universe is radically contingent on the existence of an independent entity that prevents its exnihilation. As we noted earlier, any worldview that denies the undeniable is unaffirmable and is therefore false. That means that we can cut from consideration any and all worldviews that deny the existence of God.
Although this might leave theism as the winner of the Undeniable Worldview contest, it does not explain how Christianity it the most internally consistent form of theistic belief. Regrettably, I’ll have to leave that explanation another day. All this writing, thinking, and pseudo-philosophizing has taken a toll on my existence. For now, in order to prevent my exnihilation, I think its best that I cool my overtaxed brain with a refreshing nap.