God’s Existence: Can You Explain God Away?
God’s existence: is it something fixed in reality or something we can explain away? Here are some tools we might use to explain him away.
Can you explain God away? There have been thinkers throughout history who have claimed to be able to explain God away. It’s no surprise that innumerable gods throughout history have “died” in the sense that no one believes in them anymore. An atheist named H.L. Mencken even went so far as to write a “memorial service” for dead gods. In it, he listed 138 gods who were no longer worshiped.
While belief in a capital-G Creator God remains stronger than ever on the worldwide stage, there are nonetheless thinkers who believe that they can explain this God away so that He too can eventually be added to the list of Mencken’s dead gods.
So, is it possible to explain God away? And, if so, how do you do it?
Let’s imagine that you’re going to set out to disprove God’s existence. What tools might you use?
A promising tool to begin with could be science. Scientific breakthroughs have been profoundly successful in explaining features of our universe, curing diseases, and extending lifespans. Science has also been effective in putting many mythical gods out of a job. For example, science came along and transferred Thor from being the cause of thunder to being a comic book hero. Perhaps it could be shown through science that a Creator God is no longer necessary to explain reality.
Laws of Logic
Another tool you might use to explain God away would be the laws of logic. You know, the laws we all use in order to think and have coherent discussions. Laws that are so basic that you can’t refute them without using them. For example, the law that says, “A and non-A cannot both be true at the same time and in the same sense.” Perhaps you could use the laws of logic to try to explain God away.
An increasingly popular tool for explaining away God is the tool called moral reasoning. You could try to show from your inner sense of morality that the God of the Bible—who is supposed to be all good—can’t exist. For example, perhaps you could reason that a God who allows so much suffering in His world can’t be good and therefore can’t exist. Or, perhaps you could reason that God can’t exist because there are things He did in the Bible which violate your inner sense of morality, such as frightening episodes of God’s wrath toward unrepentant people.
By using science, the laws of logic, and moral reasoning, you could get quite a bit of mileage in your pursuit of explaining God away. But at some point, you’ll look at the fuel tank and realize you’ve still got a ways to go—and you’re about to run out of fuel. When you realize you need to find a gas station, you’ll plug in “gas stations” to your phone and figure out where the nearest station is. To your dismay, you’ll see that the nearest gas station is all the way back where you started your journey from in the first place!
What I mean is this: Where do you “fill up” on science? Where do you get the laws of logic? Where do our moral convictions come from? And if you say, “Well, these are things that anybody can use,” you’d be right. But where do they come from? Are these really the kinds of things we should expect to be there in an atheistic world?
“Are these really the kinds of things we should expect to be there in an atheistic world?”
Why does the universe run according to scientific laws in the first place? There’s no reason that the universe had to run according to laws—any more than the universe had to exist in the first place. And why are there laws of logic which we all use and we can’t disprove—and which, moreover, aren’t even physical things we can see or measure? There’s no reason to think that there should be such laws—and that they should be universally true—in an atheistic universe.
And why do all the major religions preach the same basic moral truths throughout history? Why do we share deep moral convictions—a persistent sense of right and wrong—even though our own personal behavior often betrays those convictions? And why is it that this built-in sense of right and wrong gives a sense of satisfaction when we do what’s right even at great cost and makes us feel guilty even when we’ve gotten ahead by doing something wrong? These nagging moral convictions which persistently go against the grain of some of our most basic instincts are not what we should expect in an atheistic universe.
“…these nagging moral convictions which persistently go against the grain of some of our most basic instincts…”
You might try to use scientific laws, the laws of logic, or moral reasoning to explain God away. Yet the best explanation for the universality of scientific laws, the laws of logic, and moral convictions is that there is, in fact, a creative, rational, and moral mind behind it all. If you want to keep using these things, there’s a very real sense in which you’ve got to travel back to God to fill up on them.
And there are additional “tools” you might try to use to disprove God—but these too are tools which fit nicely into a reality in which there’s a God. Yet they wouldn’t exist if the physical world were all that existed. For example, pursuing truth even when inconvenient involves making free will decisions, which wouldn’t exist if we were nothing more than physical organisms. Another example: Your pursuit of the truth involves first-person consciousness and thinking about your thoughts, all of which cannot be reduced to only physical processes.
Your pursuit of the truth also involves—well, truth, which is something which goes beyond a reductionistic world of only matter and energy. Your attempt to disprove God also involves another tool which is explained better if there’s a God: and that tool is you. You as a living person are practically a miracle in yourself, considering all the finely tuned factors of our universe and planet which had be set just right for you and other living creatures to exist.
“Your attempt to disprove God also involves another tool which is explained better if there’s a God: and that tool is you.”
Here’s the truth: If you use things like scientific laws, the laws of logic, moral reasoning, free will, consciousness, thoughts about thoughts, truth, and life as tools to explain away God, they will betray you. Because that was never their intended function. Rather, if you examine these things and allow them to be what they are, you’ll see that they actually function much better as clues for God. Or even better, as gifts from God. A God we can’t explain away without needing His help.
For more from Brett, see KAPOL Kontakt Apologetics.