When asked what it would take to convince him that there were a God, Tyrrell McAllister writes in reply:
I don’t know, but my imagination is limited. Nonetheless, I am certain that an omnipotent and omniscient God, unburdened by my limits, could think of something.
If there is a God, then I want to believe that there is a God. I sincerely hope, and strongly believe, that, if there is a God, then it would be possible for some evidence to convince me.
I confess that my limited imagination cannot picture in detail what that evidence would be. But that doesn’t worry me too much, because I can’t currently imagine a lot of things that actually exist or will actually happen. That is obvious. I can see that what I can now imagine is too paltry an image to possibly be a perfectly accurate and complete picture of reality.
That my paltry imagination doesn’t contain something is only very weak evidence that that “something” doesn’t exist. (In this case, the “something” is evidence that would convince me of God’s existence.) Here, this weak evidence is overwhelmed by the fact that it is even harder for me to imagine what could possibly stop God, if he existed, from finding a way to convince me.
The arguments that you and your commenters make above about post-modern epistemology and peoples’ obstinate immunity to all evidence doesn’t help me to see how God could be unable to convince me. I am not a post-modernist, and I don’t believe that I am immune to all possible evidence. Therefore, were God unable to convince me, it seems to me unlikely that it would be for the reasons that you have given.
Brother, I sympathize more than I can say. It was when I reached a point in my atheist pondering when I realized that no miracle, no evidence, nothing whatsoever I could see with my eyes could possibly convince me of the existence of God that I came to myself, and realized my method of inquire was grossly inadequate. It was a thought prison.
If you are not a modern or a postmodern thinker, and you are looking for evidence in the existence of God, allow me in all humility to suggest two things.
First, I suggest the use of reason.
On the one hand, use your reason to contemplate the world if it were as the atheist modernistic worldview claims it to be. That is, a universe of infinite intricacy and beauty which came into existence for no reason and will be consumed by entropy, decay, and death for no reason.
In such a world, all human accomplishment is ultimately vain. It matters nothing if men walked on the Moon during the Nixon administration. From the point of view of a world in a galaxy swimming somewhere lost in the immensity of the supercluster in Corona Borealis one billion light years away, no astronomer of that world will even know our galaxy existed, or our star, or our world or anything we do on it. And even if that astronomer were to learn of our galaxy, and give it a star catalog number, or learn of our world, he also will pass away, and his world, his starsystem, his galaxy, his cluster, his supercluster. It all dies sooner or later, and even long-lived stars go out.
In such a world, there is no truth, since the methods in the human brain for comparing ideas with reality are biological machines as subject to malfunction or mischance as any other quirky computer or rusting clockwork, with the added uncertainty that the human brain was not designed by a computer programmer or careful clockmaker, but is the unintentional byproduct of mindless natural processes, merely strings of chemical and neurological reactions leading one to another like a row of dominoes toppling.
In such a world, there can be temporary or pragmatic reasons for just and moral behavior, but no eternal reason, no deliberate reasons, no reasons that really make sense.
In such a world, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. There is no meaning to anything, no fit nor proper emotional response to anything our senses perceive, and a man who likes torture porn is no better and no worse than a woman who likes to see her baby smile.
In such a world, you are living your life inside a coffin. Now, this may be a large coffin, and certain things like love and family and rewarding work or temporary artistic experiences may distract you or please you for a certain time, but that time will pass and those things will fail and die, and you will be in the coffin whether you distract yourself from that horrible reality or not.
There are two and only two possible reactions to waking up and finding yourself prematurely buried in a coffin, in a world with no justice, no truth, and no beauty.
One is to distract yourself with game and toys until the oxygen runs out. This is called hedonism. This is the preferred method of the modern mind, and it is the reason why our society is rapidly becoming uncouth, indecent, and unlivable. The modern world is not a place to raise kids. The celebration of sexual perversion, the abundance of drugs, the ubiquity of porn, and the heedless spending of money we don’t have both on a personal and national level are all the logical side effects of hedonism. It is by nature a short term and self defeating way to live.
The other is stoicism, a manly resignation to the inevitability of death, and resolution to die bravely and serenely, without uncouth displays, complaints, or regrets. This is the method preferred by the ancients.
Now, I submit to your candid judgment that both of these options are deadly to human nature. For better or worse, we are not designed to be able to thrive, to find meaning, to find joy, in a world where everything we do is vain, where truth is propaganda, justice is brutality, beauty is porn.
Hedonism is fundamentally a self-degrading and self-destructive path, and destructive of progeny. Hedonists have no need of marriage, and they expose or abort their infants. Stoicism is a far nobler creed, and has much to recommend it, but it also holds self-destruction, suicide after the fashion of Socrates or Cato of Utica, to be admirable. Stoicism has neither the means nor the motive to resist tyranny.
The attempts to live in such a world inevitably make us stupid, selfish, and unhappy.
We are stupid if there is no truth, because then we live in a cloud of vague ideas not subject to critical examination. When all ideas are equal to all others, we have no reason to care whether they make sense or not.
A world without truth is merely a battlefield of increasingly irrational competing ‘narratives’ that is, propaganda labyrinths, and the only rational response is to use peer pressure or the force of the law to get all men to cease questioning political correctness, either by ruling discussions out of bounds, or using hate speech codes, or declaring opposition to political correctness to be a psychopathology.
If you see the social and political discourse around you degenerating into exchanges of emotionally overheated bumpersticker sloganeering, this is because the culture accepts the postulate of truthlessness.
We are selfish if there is no justice, for then our desires for our immediate good have equal weight, or superior, to the claims of the poor and needy, or the claims of those not of our family, clan, bloodline, nation, or faction.
If there is no justice, there is no way to weigh one claim against the other, and the strong will take what they want and the weak will suffer what they must.
And if there is no beauty, there can be no joy.
Ugliness can be endured by those with a sick, sneering attitude, who secretly or openly are pleased at the disquiet ugliness imposes on others, and their pleasure comes from marring beauty, rather than making it: the pleasure of the graffiti artist is to deface the art of the architect.
On the other hand, contemplate the world as it would be if the world were as the Christian teaching describes.
In such a world, Beauty both natural and supernatural exists around us and within in, rapturous and transcendent and sublime, because it springs shining from the hand of that great artist who designed the worlds and filled them.
When a Christian looks at the rings of Saturn, which are of no possible use to any man, and are invisible before the invention of the telescope, he can be grateful for the sublime beauty he sees, and, if his world view is correct, there is indeed someone to whom to be grateful, so the emotion is not meaningless, not selfish.
In such a world, the justice that men all crave and few or none receive on Earth is assured in the next life, and no criminal escapes, except through that same abundant mercy for which we also hunger and thirst.
In such a world, not only is there such a thing as Truth, the Truth is not a thing but a person, who seeks to woo you as ardently as a passionate young man would woo his bride.
In such a world, there is a clear and cogent reason for believing in the equality of man and the sacredness of human life.
There is a clear and cogent for believing in the dignity of marriage, in obedience to magistrates, in the ‘just war’ theory.
There is a clear and cogent reason for believing that the mind of man and the laws of nature operate from the same laws of logic, and that the one is valid and able to contemplate fruitfully the other.
There is a reason, in other words, if God exists, for believing that the study of the physical sciences reveals real truths to the minds of men. Without God, there is no reason for that belief, merely a hope; and no one can account for that hope.
In sum, a dispassionate examination of the Christian and the Atheist worldview shows that the one model or theory explains what it attempts to explain and the other does not. In that case, it is like preferring the heliocentric to the geocentric model. One model ends in absurdities and gaps and ad hoc explanations and therefore must be rejected. And I mean the atheist model. It does not explain Man. It does not explain truth, justice, or beauty.
Now, a common objection to raise at this point is to say that there are many other options aside from atheism and Christianity. There is Judaism, for example. There are countless denominations within Christianity, and there are pagan beliefs, and primitive tribal beliefs, and the sophisticated theologies and philosophies of Buddha, Confucius, and Lao Tzu.
As a practical matter, whatever is good and useful in pagan and prechristian belief has been adopted into Christianity and made workable. Stoicism, for example, is a hard, practically impossible, doctrine to follow. Martyrdom, however, is something any saint can do.
As a historical matter, various heresies and perversions of the Church either contain some good but not all the good of the Church (for example, they have the Bible but not the sacraments) or they have grotesquely perverted the good. For the Mohammedan heretics to call their craven suicide-murder bombers ‘martyrs’ is very nearly a perfect Orwellian reverse of its real meaning, a gross perversion, and abominable attempt to slather an enormity in the prestige of sanctity.
As a theological matter, none of these differences of denomination are widely significant not when compared with the nullity of atheism, and pagan or New Age beliefs, like Judaism or Islam, are either earlier world views that find their full completion in Christ, the way Newton was completed, but not contradicted, by Einstein, or they are partial versions, or inversions, trailing after Christ, the way classical music was followed by modern atonal music. A man who seeks to flee from the vacuous moral and mental abyss of modernism, and to find truth, beauty, and justice will find more of it in Christianity, more clear and more pure, than elsewhere, albeit these others have their merits as well.
Thus, reason leads to Christ the moment reason ceases to place obstacles in the way. The process of apologetics is almost never to persuade the listener that God exists, that he created us, suffered and died for us, was raised from death and conquered it and lives in us and grants us His life. The process is usually limited to dismissing or dispelling specious arguments against God, such as arguments that portray God as comical, or cruel, or logically absurd, or as a silly superstition, or as an abortive scientific problem. Once those arguments are exploded, the heart is open to receive the Holy Spirit.
Therefore the use of reason is crucial to leading men to God, by proving that the godless world is cruel and foolish and superstitious, leads to horrors from which all honest men recoil, or leads to stupidity, injustice, ugliness and death. That is, the use of reason is to show a model which lack God is a model that does not describe the world we see around us, and does not describe Man.
This last point is most significant. The most striking thing about modern theories and modern philosophies is how painfully easy they are for a student of philosophy to refute. All he need do is look to see if they refute themselves.
Any philosophy which, if it were true, would eliminate the possibility of a philosopher honestly coming to believe it refutes itself by its own terms. Any philosophy which eliminates the philosopher is false.
A few notorious examples will prove the point.
Hume pronounces a withering empirical skepticism which, if it were true, would lead the philosopher with no reason to believe empiricism, withering or not, nor any other theory of epistemology, since epistemological theories by definition are non-empirical.
Marx claims that the economic theories believed by men are the mechanical and thoughtless by product of their modes of production and the operation of inhuman forces of history. If true, then his theory (including the statement that men believe theories because of modes of production of the societies in which they happen to live and be conditioned), is also believed only because of the modes of production of the society in which Marx happened to live and by which he was conditioned, and therefore his theory is not objective nor true.
Skinner is likewise conditioned to respond to stimuli by repeating the slogans of Behaviorism, but he does not believe them, because there is no internal reality to man.
Logical Positivism is the metaphysical theory that all metaphysical theories are meaningless, including their own.
Freud’s theory of sexual repression springs from his diseased subconscious forces of which he is, due to his own sexual repressions, unaware. And so on and on.
Each of these philosophies makes a simple error. By ignoring the supernatural, they attempt to explain Man as a natural phenomenon, that is, as a beast who talks, as a robot programmed by his environment, as by product of molecular, chemical, and evolutionary forces and processes.
But Man, if he is just a beast or just a robot, cannot be a philosopher, and cannot invent a philosophy. If Man is a beast, his words are merely cries and calls, and his thoughts merely reactions. If Man is a robot, he has no thoughts properly so called, merely programming.
By eliminating the free will, all these naturalistic theories are deterministic, and if your philosophy is determined by nonhuman chemical, evolutionary, psychological or economic factors, then your thought is in vain, not free, not true.
Thus reason tells us that the atheist worldview is inadequate, self-contradictory, misleading, false, impractical.
The only real alternative of the apparent many options is either Christianity or something leading to Christ, or else is a heresy or perversion whose only good was borrowed from the Church, so that any partial good found in these pagan, Jewish, or heretic thought is perfected in Christianity.
So much for reason.
The second thing I suggest is that you seek God in the only fashion, using the only instrument, the subject matter admits of.
God is not a proposition of geometry or philosophy, to be proved by logic alone, nor a proposition of science, to be proved by empirical test. God is a person. The only instrument able to seek Him is you, your whole person, your whole being, your whole life.
Therefore I recommend that the only logical way to find God is to live your life like a Christian for a decade, or a year, or a month.
Pray five prayers a day, like a Muslim, or fifty and five, like a Catholic, and keep the feasts and fasts, read the Bible and meditate on it, listen to homilies and sermons, and, above all, act like a Christian should act.
Give away all you own to the poor, or, if that is too hard for you, give away a tenth.
Feed the hungry, slake the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the prisoner in jail. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those that hate you.
And I do not mean promoting socialism and call that charity; nor believing in a glorious but lawless leader’s ability to lead us to utopia and call that hope; nor having the opinion that vices, if only we indulged in them to the utmost, if only no one voiced disapproval of them, would lead us all to peace and joy and lasting happiness, and call that faith. That is not living a Christian life. That is, in naked truth, death and the culture of death.
Pray and give alms and live as Christ for a time, and you may not find God. But God will come looking for you.
If you honestly want to know why we believe what we believe, do what we do, be as we are, and you will see.
In closing, I might suggest the slackers, Pharisees, hypocrites and Laodiceans among the Christian Church also live as Christ commanded us for a month, or a year, or a lifetime, so as to cease bringing scandal to men like Mr McAllister. You are a bar and a stumblingblock to your brother who is blind, my fellow insincere Christians, and by your laxness and lack of zeal you push your brother into hellfire, and his blood is on your hands.