It seems that the more I read or listen to many of the common arguments from non-believers, there is a very narrow range of types of objections to Christianity or any sort of theism.
One such argument has to do with the level of skepticism they have regarding any claims of a divine being. What I have found, however, is that this argument tends to be every bit as inconsistent as many others.
For example, one argument along this type of thing is with regards to why God doesn’t give everyone “first-hand experience” of Himself. They may argue that, rather than directly appearing or speaking to a small handful of select people throughout history, why couldn’t God reveal Himself in a more tangible or obvious way to the non-believer in order to show that God is real?
They may give examples of such grandiose things as having Jesus split the sky and come down right in front of them or appear to them in some more tangible way. There are several problems with this concept. Not the least of which is that, even if God did do something like that, chances are that over time the skeptic would begin to doubt his own first-hand experience.
The more time passed, the more they would be able to convince themselves that there is some naturalistic explanation or they will deny the event ever actually occurred to begin with.
How do we know this? Well, if you’ve ever read Exodus, you see a group of people that were first-person witnesses to some absolutely amazing things. One would think that after watching God part the Red Sea, that would do it. But, no. While Moses was up on Mount Sinai for just 40 days, they started worshipping a man-made idol. Well, that didn’t take long, did it?
Aside from all of that, my main point is to show how inconsistent it is to expect first-hand experience of God in such a way. After all, does this same level of skepticism apply to other areas of the non-believer’s life? Well, I think we can say with some certainty that it does not.
Prior to boarding an airplane, most people do not personally go out and perform an inspection of the aircraft. We don’t interview the pilots. We don’t meet with the air traffic controllers or verify that their equipment is fully operational and configured properly.
We simply trust that the people who do check on those things are diligent and careful to ensure that everything is in order. The same holds true whenever we get onto a boat, in a car, an elevator or any number of other things in our lives. If we had the same level of skepticism about those things, we’d hardly be able to do anything in our lives.
First of all, we don’t have the knowledge or expertise enough with all these different things to properly ensure that they’re all correct. Second, even if they had knowledge to check some of these things out, chances are that they gained that knowledge by being taught by someone else rather than discovering or figuring these things out on their own.
There are times that we recognize that we have to stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. Otherwise, we’d never gain knowledge beyond what our own, personal life experience could teach us. I’m pretty sure, if we did that, we’d never be able to advance to the point of creating tools, weapons, technology, learn to read/write, create communities of people, build homes or a multitude of other things. We’d basically never get beyond the cave-man stage because we’d never be able to learn from the experience of others and build on top of it.
The fact is, some people are skeptical by nature. In some cases, some of them tend to ratchet up their skepticism to a much more stringent level when dealing with certain issues or topics…such as theism. Since theism does not fit the worldview of the atheist, any evidence in favor of theism is met with a higher level of skepticism than the functionality of an airplane that he/she is about to board.
Of course, this type of thing is possible (and does occur) on both sides of the theism issue. There are believers who do the very same type of thing…ignoring any argument against their own world view rather than examining the argument on its merit and treating it with intellectual honesty.
In all cases, for people on both sides of this debate, we all need to do our best to maintain some consistency in how to determine if information we receive is trustworthy and comes from a reliable source.
We trust that the people who inspect the airplane know what they’re doing. We trust that the pilots are trained well. We trust that the air traffic controllers and their equipment is functioning properly. We trust that all these things are done, by people we may never meet, correctly and completely to ensure our safe travel.
First-hand experience is not needed when we trust that others are doing what they are doing correctly. The same holds true for the people through whom we have received the teachings of Christianity.
Grace, love and peace.