One of the questions I am often asked is what is my favorite argument against atheism, I somewhat sarcastically respond “A B.A.!” I recognize this is a snarky answer but it is somewhat clever and it has a few nuances behind it number one I do think that a person well educated in the arts is more likely to be theistic or agnostic toward religion than a committed atheist, second is the nature of the degree in arts. Now this is an oversimplified version of this argument for the nature and length of the blog but there is some legitimacy to the argument. Second, though I do think this is a valid argument I do not assume it ends the discussion. One reality many people often overlook when they talk of the debate between theism and atheism is that there are really smart and highly educated individuals on both sides of the coin. Alvin Plantinga is someone I think about around this topic because he is a top level philosopher (and not the only one) who uses philosophy to reveal God in a discipline that is highly secular. This leads me to my point, atheists, being materialists, rely heavily on scientific arguments in making their case, and often the conclusion is– either explicit or implied– scientific knowledge is the only type of knowledge therefore everything can be explained in terms of science. The very existence of degrees such as the “bachelor’s of arts” is a reminder that not all the is real and true can be explained by science.
I studied history in school and while the sciences can provide valuable information for the historian to use, it cannot prove history. the scientific method does not apply to history and the reason is that science by definition observes repeated events, history by definition is a non-repeatable event. We recognize the events of the past are factual and real, but they stand outside what science can tell us. Look up the story of Alan Magee, history tells us he fell 22,000 feet out of his plane and lived, science cannot really tell us what happened because the exact situation cannot be reproduced (Mythbusters tried). History is not the only area which shows the limits of science art, music, literature & and even education itself point to a metaphysical reality which is not part of our current definition of science. The very fact that the historian or the literature major can answer the question, “why did she love him” and the scientist cannot should help us realize that there is more out there than science. Even a characteristic like charisma, though easily noticed by the average person, is not readily defined in scientific terms. Are these qualities less real, obviously not, we can define them and accurately show their presence or absence. All of this is evidence that science is not our only way of independently understanding our existence.
I know I have said this before but it bears repeating simply because materialists must point to metaphysical answers to questions like human motivation does not inherently mean they are wrong (any more than the existence of suffering proves they are right). Rather, metaphysical realities are a hindrance to the individual who wants a purely physical definition of life. I do realize that not all who call themselves atheists would define themselves as materialists, and some are quite at home with metaphysics but I have not encountered one who has resolved this tension. The inherent difficulty of how does a material world give rise to metaphysical realities outside the physical processes remains.
The last reason why my sarcastic quip of, “A B. A.!” is my favorite response is that I have studied history and I have studied the Bible as a historical record. Simply put I think the case made by historians that the Gospels are historically credible is far better than the case made that they are not. [And Richard Carrier’s case that Jesus was not real is simply laughable, if he applied those same criteria to other figures he would discover his history books remarkably thin.] Though I grew up in a Christian home and context my understanding of the truth of the Gospels is perhaps more dependent on my research in history classes than anything. I have said other places I fully expected individuals like Richard Dawkins, Bart Ehrman, Bertrand Russel, & others to expose and perhaps undermine my faith. And while some have shown valuable critiques of Christianity and especially the flaws of Christians and how they respond to the world, the arguments they purpose to destroy this historical element lack luster. In fact, as I continue to read and study history I grow increasingly convinced that Christians often get many things wrong and the initial witness of the the Gospel authors is valid and trustworthy. Do academics from a variety of disciplines pose difficult questions and provide reasons for some doubt? Yes. But is doubt always a bad thing, no. Doubt helps us seek out new and deeper answers to reality. Also, though my faith is grounded in a historical reality it still must make sense within other disciplines, including science. This is where I do rely on people like Francis Collins and John Polkinghorne who show historic Christianity is not at odds with faith (despite what Dawkins may think). In the end there is no single “proof” either for or against God, rather each of us builds a body of evidence to support a view. I think theistic and atheistic reconstructions of the material universe both have difficulties, most of which revolve around how little we actually know about areas like cosmology and quantum mechanics. For me this means that other sources of knowledge are invaluable as I construct a worldview– which after all is an inherently metaphysical rather than physical endeavor. For me, as I construct my worldview, historical truths play heavy into what I believe because they point to the world of God within the history of the world.