My friend over at theological snob recently posted on the existence of God. You will find his post below...
I recently received an e-mail from one of the college students I worked with in my previous position. Without giving out all of the details, she asked me about the "epistemology" of the existence of God, i.e. how do we know that God exists. Here is a portion of my reply:
In truth, it is just as difficult to prove the existence of God as it is to disprove the existence of God. This is a basic epistemological problem for everyone - believers and non. When I took my little walk on the AT I struggled with the existence of God, accepting the very real problem that I cannot prove God exists. I ended up at the point where I recognized that I need God to exist and have to settle with that. It is not a comfortable place, but it is where I stand at this point. On the other hand those who do not believe have to decide that God does not exist - it is a choice that must be made and at that point epistemology is moot. There are some much smarter people who have contributed to this conversation - Kierkegaard is good - try the Philosophical Fragments and Either Or. Fear and Trembling is good, but focuses more on ethics. I would start with that. Ironically, I think Nietzsche is good, but I don't know enough to recommend a book. Bonhoeffer's Sanctorum Communio, especially the first chapter, makes a case for the difference between believing in God and not.As I stated, the difficultly is that we cannot prove God exists and there will always be a gap which one must jump. Either we could engage in a "reductio ad absurdium" by asking again and again "and then what," or, "what was before that," or we can find a stopping point and name it God. There are proofs for the existence of God: Aquinas - Cosmological Proof, Anselm - Ontological Proof, but they actually demonstrate the existence of God, or the nature of God.
Here is my response....more in the traditional baptist area of testimony. Believing in the existence of God, for me is ecclesiology. I believe that there is a God who loves humanity because of the church that raised me. I don't mean that they told me God existed and I've never questioned it. I mean through their acts of kindness and compassion for my family as I grew up... because of the caring and the sacrifice they showed in caring for us through difficult times of personal loss and economic struggle. I never doubted that God cared for me, because this group of people who prayed to God and sang to God cared for us. I know that isn't a foolproof argument. Churches don't always maintain this witness and they do not do so consistently. This same home church was very much against homosexuality and were I gay, I'm sure my testimony would be very different. It seems terribly irrational and illogical that the existence of God is proven through such a diverse, contradictory, and often inconsistent means as the church, but there it is... and that seems to be what the Bible says, from God's call of Israel to be a priesthood, to Christ's promise to be present with the one or two who would gather in his name, to Paul calling the church the 'body of Christ' the gathered community is the 'proof' for whatever that may be worth.
Theosnob asked what weight this 'proof' would have with 'non-believers', an excellent question
Again my response;
I think my answer to the existence of God is the only way to engage with 'non-believers'. Let's face it... you can quote all the Augustine, Aquinas or anybody else you want... but that will ahve little to no meaning to most non-believers. You can try the unmoved mover is you want to (Aristotle I believe) but I don't think that will have much weight. the only thing we really have to share with non-believers is our experience. It is not an intellectual proof, but emotional I know... but I believe in the existence of God because of a loving community that believes in God. You too non-believer, can experience that presence in my community. In my opinion, most intellectual questions of the existence of God stem from emotional issues of hurt, abandonment, disappointment, or loss. 9 times out of 10 an intellectual answer will mean very little... the promise of a loving community offers hope in a way that intellectualizing cannot. The only way to show God is to show a community that lives in the way of Christ. What more do we really have to offer?
I really appreciate Theosnob engaging me in this question, especially because it gives me something to post on my own blog.
This entire discussion really connects with something I have been thinking about quite a bit lately; what is the church (specifically the baptist church) meant to be showing the world or teaching the world through our worship, liturgy, and faith practices? I am beginning to think of church through the lense of witness. Instead of gathering to worship to have our own individual needs met... we gather to worship so that the world can see 'the way' of Christ in action, and therefore come to know this Christ and more than know, to experience life with and relationship with Christ. The connection is that our purpose in gathering for worship and discipleship is to bear witness to the existence of God. From our liturgical events, such as baptism and communion, to our practices, such as prayer and forgiveness and tithing, to the simplest supportive phone call to a sick friend... we are proclaiming the existence of God. Others will come to believe in God through the experience of God's love as ennacted by God's disciples, the gathered church.
Which leads to my word for the day: Empiricism: A theory of knowledge which asserts that knowledge arises from experience... One of several competing views about how we know... a branch of philosophy called epistemology.
And speaking of epistemology... check out this link, flyingfarther.wordpress.com, D. Stephen Long on.... you guessed it... EPISTEMOLOGY!!!! What do you think of this?