Conditional Theism Refuted

empty_tomb11Conditional Theism

Many atheists tauntingly claim that they would believe in God if he unequivocally revealed himself in some miraculous display of power. This, however, just is not the case. Scripture teaches that all men are born with a knowledge of God sufficient to leave them without excuse on the day of judgment. If the inmate knowledge of God, which is self-attestingly immediate, personal, and unequivocally Divine in origin is rejected by the atheist, what makes him think he won’t also explain away the miraculous as merely a purely naturalistic anomaly? Frankly, the miracle test for the existence of God is as disingenuous as it is irrational.

Firstly, if one is an atheist, then one is a materialist. Ipso facto, any event is a “natural” event (i.e. a material cause-effect relationship that is, or eventually will be, “scientifically” explicable). Given that this is the case, what could possibly be considered miraculous? Nothing. The metaphysical system admits of no possibility of Divine interaction. The atheist who claims he will believe if God performs some miraculous event, then, is either hopelessly ignorant of the implications of his metaphysical system (i.e. naturalism/materialism) or he is dishonestly claiming to be open to the possibility that God exists. If all events are natural and scientifically explicable, then there can only be two kinds of phenomena, viz. the known and the unknown. For the atheist, any putatively miraculous event can only be properly understood as an unknown phenomenon which is now, or soon will be,scientifically explicable.

Secondly, assuming naturalism/materialism to be the case, all knowledge is derived, ultimately, from inductive reasoning. Consequently, all knowledge claims are always defeasible. Logically, there can be no truly closed definition of any event under the atheist’s consideration. This gives him an easy out when presented with any putatively miraculous event, seeing as he can always claim ignorance of either (a.)the event under consideration or (b.)his knowledge of how to deal with the kind of event under consideration. As a side note, moreover, the assumption of naturalism is self-defeating because it results in universal defeasibility. If a true proposition is indefeasible, and I argue that it is, then naturalism not only cannot yield truth about events we observe, it cannot yield truth about itself as a metaphysical system. Thus, if naturalism is true it cannot be true.

Thirdly, and more importantly, Scripture explicitly states that the unbeliever can only believe if God regenerates him from his state of spiritual blindness, deafness, paralysis, and death. The Scriptures that state this very clearly are the following:

“He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.”[1]

“‘…I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house —  for I have five brothers — so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, butif someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”[2]

…And they led him away to their council, and they said, “If you are the Christ, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say that I am.” Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.”[3]

So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”  Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”  They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.  But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.”[4]

“…because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.”[5]

The unbeliever does not fail to believe because he lacks evidence; he is dead and unable to believe. We must add to the above explicit mentions of the persistent unbelief of man, the implicit reiterations of this truth in places like Exodus, where Pharaoh challenges Yahweh, is met with the omnipotence of Yahweh, and yet refuses to believe.[6] Likewise consider Balaam, who is face to face with a talking donkey and yet remains blind to (a.) the fact that he is witnessing a miracle, (b.) the fact that an angel is standing in his way (i.e. another miraculous event), and (c.) the fact that he is being warned by God through these miraculous occurences of his oncoming judgment.[7]

Fourthly, and most importantly, the Scriptures tell us in no uncertain terms that “faith comesfrom hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”[8] Physical sight and hearing are given by God,[9] just as spiritual hearing and spiritual sight are given by God. Hence, Moses declares to the second generation of Israelites:

“You have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, and those great wonders. But to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.[10]

And as Jesus tells Nicodemus:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.

[…]

That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”[11]

The sinner comes to believe in the only true God solely through faith in Christ’s person and work. The Scripture says this rather explicitly in a number of places.

“…no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”[12]

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through

me.”[13]

…Christ…was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.[14]

No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.[15]

Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.[16]

Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.[17]

A conversion to true theism, belief in God through faith in his Son’s redemptive work, therefore, cannot be promised by the atheist. Nor should Christians expect that atheists will believe if God meets the atheist’s demands. Faith is a gift from God, not a human concoction. As the Scriptures declare:

…“I believe; help my unbelief!”[18]

This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”[19]

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.[20]

For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit…[21]

For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake…[22]

The conditional theism of atheists is exposed by the Scriptures for what it is: An irrational and disingenuous ad hoc response to what he knows to be true. As Paul declares in Romans 1:18-23:

… the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ; faith does not come by God meeting the arbitrary demands of his enemies.

Soli Deo Gloria.

-h.


[1] Matt 27:42. These men, of course, refused to believe even after he had performed the greater work of raising himself from the dead.

[2] Luke 16:27-31. (emphasis added)

[3] Luke 22:66b-71.

[4] John 6:30-36. (emphasis added)

[5] John 8:45.

[6] See Ex 3-14.

[7] See Num 22:22-35.

[8] Rom 10:17.

[9] Ex 4:11: […]“Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, theLord?”

[10] Deut 29:2b-4. (emphasis added) See also, Pss 119:18 & Eph 1:16-21.

[11] John 3:3-6.

[12] Matt 11:27.

[13] John 14:6.

[14] 1st Pet 1:19b-21.

[15] 1st John 2:23.

[16] 1st John 5:12.

[17] 2nd John 1:9.

[18] Mark 9:24. (emphasis added)

[19] John 6:29. (emphasis added)

[20] Rom 12:3. (emphasis added)

[21] 1st Cor 12:8-9. (emphasis added)

[22] Phil 1:29. (emphasis added)

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