Yesterday we looked at some of the reasons we as Christians don’t need to buy it when someone says “God can’t be proven by science.” We left with this objection:
That doesn’t solve our problem of being able to use science to prove God. Because if we tried right now, we couldn’t.
In other words, the problem most people have with God and science is that even if God does exist, we can’t go out and “prove” him at will. We can’t get together a team, win a grant, build the lab, run the tests, and, PRESTO!, proof of God. So what’s the point of something like a biblical or philosophical “proof” that science could record evidence of God?
Point taken. How should we reply?
First, we should not default back in to the same mistake we tried to undo with the last post. We don’t say, “Well, God is spirit, and science acts on matter, so we can’t use science to prove God.” That wrongly assumes the division between spirit and matter (and between God and creation) which we’ve already seen doesn’t exist.
Instead, we start here: When we’re talking about God, we are not talking about a thing that we can simply find, manipulate, and test. And the issue isn’t that, well, he’s like…GOD. The issue is that he’s a person. He’s not something inert which we have mastery over. He is his own master, with his own will, and his own desires. To use a crude analogy, imagine that scientists began questioning the existence of your best friend. We’ll call him Carl. You know this is absurd, because, of course, you know Carl. So you call Carl up and say, “Dude, have you seen Google news? A team of researchers from Stanford has gone public with their belief that you don’t exist, and they’ve won a million dollar grant to run a program to prove definitively whether or not you’re real!” Now imagine that Carl doesn’t trust these researchers, or the government program that funded them, and wants no part of their research. So he refuses to go anywhere near that lab. And of course, it would only be a matter of time before the team from Stanford came out with their results–no matter how many tests they run, they can’t find any evidence of Carl. Case closed.
What’s the point of the picture? Simply that when we are talking about a person, and not simply a thing, we have to factor in their own desires, and their ability to cooperate or not cooperate. If they don’t want to show themselves in any given situation, there will be a lack of evidence they exist, at least right then and there.
Which brings up another issue in our story. You don’t only need to factor in the personhood of the one who’s existence is being questioned, you also need to factor in the personhood of those doing the questioning. The modern scientific establishment, along with materialistic philosophers, has shown the ability to radically doubt any and every piece of evidence that they’re hostile to. To illustrate the conundrum we’re in here, imagine another scenario. Imagine that Carl, on a bad day, turns to you, out of the blue, and says, “You know what, I don’t even believe you exist. Prove it to me. Prove it right now!” What would you say (“…um…I’m standing right here talking to you…”) that he couldn’t bat down (“I might be dreaming. You might be an imposter.”)? See what a awkward conversation it would be?
This helps us see past an immediate objection to the “team of researchers tries to prove Carl” picture. The God of the Bible is not someone who has refused, ever, to show up and prove himself (like Carl). In fact, as we saw last post, and as the bible amply demonstrates, he loves to do just that. If you seek him, he promises you’ll find him. (I testify that he’s very easy to find.) And often he shows up, undeniably, demonstrably, even for people that aren’t seeking him. But on the other hand, he won’t be commanded like a genie, or made to run our mazes like a rat. We don’t get to tell him what hoops to jump through before we’ll “believe” in him. If that’s what you require to “prove” God, then you don’t want a God. You want a toy. You want something you can manipulate and control.
Think about it: we can’t even relate to other humans that way, without degrading them. How can we possibly think we can relate to God that way? When he walked among us, Jesus consistently refused to perform tricks at the whims of those who were hostile to him. But for the guy who said, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief!”–Jesus healed his kid. Jesus shows us how God works in all situations.
Science won’t find God while it remains hostile to him, demanding a lab animal to poke and prod. You and Carl wouldn’t want that for yourselves, and God won’t stoop to our demands either. But to all who look, willing to see (wanting to see!), he shows himself. And, as he has before and will again, sometimes he shows himself in ways that can be tested by any and all kinds of science–physically, undeniably, and convincingly.