Monday, January 5, 2015

God of the gaps

Francis Beckwith responds to a Wall Street Journal column by Eric Metaxas: “Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God.”:
... Is the rational basis for believing in His existence really dependent on the deliverances of modern science? Should one calibrate the depth of one’s faith on the basis of what researchers tell us about the plausibility of the “God hypothesis” in recent issues of the leading peer-reviewed science journals? The answer to all three question is no, since God is not a scientific hypothesis. For this reason, it is equally true that advances in our scientific knowledge cannot in principle count against the existence of God. ....

When faced with a cadre of globally accessible, and endlessly annoying, village atheists who posit the findings of science as defeaters to belief in God, there is nothing quite like the Schadenfreude of pointing out to the self-appointed guardians of reason that they have been hoisted upon their own petard. But you should not acquiesce to this temptation. For in doing so, you concede to the atheist his mistaken assumption that the rationality of belief in God depends on the absence of a scientific account of whatever phenomenon is in question.

The key to responding to such misinformed unbelief is to challenge this assumption, which is relatively easy to do. First, philosophy, and not any empirical science, is the proper discipline from which to start one’s inquiry into natural theology. In fact, the unbeliever, ironically, assumes this very point by starting with science. How is that possible? His belief that science is the best or only way by which one may properly assess the rationality of belief in God is itself not a deliverance of science, but a philosophical belief about science and its relationship to the limits of our knowledge. So, whether he realizes it or not, the scientific critic of God begins with philosophy, which means that it, and not science, is where the reasonable person should begin. ....

Looking for improbable occurrences in nature that cannot be accounted for by either chance or scientific laws, and then from those concluding that one has “made a case for God,” as Metaxas argues, confuses a question of natural science with a question of natural theology. God, in the classical tradition, is not in competition with the contingent universe He creates. He is its First Cause that is itself not contingent. But He is not first in the order of time, but first in the order of being. This means that the contingent universe remains in existence because it depends on Self-subsistent Being, whether or not the universe has always existed. .... [more]