Wed 10 Aug 2011
Although much is made about the “rise of atheism” I generally find that people I talk with are not atheists, they are either agnostic or vaguely deistic/theistic pluralists. Those who are not atheists generally would affirm the following (note that I say “generally” so this may not apply to you personally):
1) God [at least probably] exists.
2) God is good.
3) You can’t know anything about God.
I realize that 2) and 3) seem to contradict eachother, but I’ve heard several people say one and then the other. Generally what the person means is something like: “You could know something general about God (like God is good, or God is love) but nothing specific.” ie, you might know some very general things about God but you can’t really KNOW God in the detail or personal way that the Bible suggests.
We could explore the rationale behind the idea that God is unknowable (which, IMHO, ends up being faulty upon closer examination) but I wanted to try a different tack today. I imagined this conversation, which was inspired by starting to read John Piper’s Desiring God (available for free online as an ebook):
Me: So, you think God probably exists and is good?
Me: But it’s also your belief that we can’t really know God in any substantial way?
Agnostic: That’s right.
Me: I think that belief is faulty and based on false presuppositions, but would you say that a God who is good would want to give us what is good?
Agnostic: That seems to make sense.
Me: And would you agree that if God is good, then God by definition would not be merely kinda good, but God would be maximally or perfectly good?
Me: Would you say it would be good for God to withhold from us what would be most good for us?
Agnostic: No, I wouldn’t think so.
Me: So then, for God to be good, he would have to give us what is most good for us. What would you say would be most good for us?
Agnostic: I’m not sure.
Me: Well, if God is maximally or perfectly good, wouldn’t what is most good for us to be God Himself? If he is maximally or perfectly good, He would want to share Himself with us.
Agnostic: I’m hesitant to say yes, but it’s hard to imagine what would be more good.
Me: So then: For God to be maximally or perfectly good, He must necessarily share Himself with us. For if God did not do so, He could not be maximally or perfectly good, and wouldn’t be God at all! Therefore, He must share of Himself with us, and we have the opportunity and ability to know Him.
Now, someone might then wonder: If God desires to give us what is maximally or perfectly good, whence comes evil? That takes us into the whole other issue of theodicy (study of the problem of evil) but keep in mind that asking “What about evil?” doesn’t invalidate the argument above, it merely raises an unanswered question regarding its ramifications.