Why Faith in God Is Not Stupid
by Andrew Menkis
How do we know God exists? The go-to Sunday School answer is faith, but is that really a legitimate way to know? Is there any difference between having faith in the God of the Bible or faith in the Flying Spaghetti Monster? Is faith just choosing something to believe in even if there is no evidence or logic to prove it? These and similar questions are often posed as a challenge to Christianity. To answer these questions, I want to go behind these objections and begin by tackling the underlying question: how can we know anything? Many men and women have wrestled with this question throughout history. Generally speaking, responses can be lumped into one of three categories.
1. “Seeing is Believing”
One of the most common views on how we know is called empiricism. It is the belief that we only know through our senses. If we can’t see it, hear it, touch it, taste it, or feel it then we simply can’t have knowledge about it. In fact, if we can’t experience it, then it isn’t real. Many who hold this view understandably conclude that God does not exist. If the only way to know is by experiencing and you have never had an experience of God, then you can’t know if God exists. The fact that you have no evidence of God’s existence means that it is most likely that God isn’t real.
However, there is a problem with making sense experience the foundation of knowledge: we cannot prove our sensory perceptions are reliable by using our senses. Allow me to unpack exactly why that is an issue for empiricism. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that the only way to know the truth is through our senses. Now let’s ask the question: how do we know that we can only know through our senses? We have already said that sense perception is the only way to know, therefore our answer to the question must be based on evidence from our five senses. Here is the rub: the empiricist must prove that only the senses give knowledge, but in order to demonstrate that proposition is true, they have appealed to the very thing they are trying to prove. It is a self-defeating circle! They are assuming the senses are reliable and lead to true conclusions in order to prove that the senses are reliable and lead us to true knowledge about the world.
This leaves us with a choice…