Fear and Trembling
I began to seek out arguments in favor of the existence of God, revisiting William Lane Craig debates I had dismissed only several years prior during my time in Bible school. I listened to others, too. But the more I listened and pondered the so-called “evidence for the existence of God,” the more I realized I was either all in or all out. I could always challenge evidentially based arguments, because evidentially based arguments assume a prior foundation of beliefs – e.g. the belief that God is knowable/has condescended to reveal himself to humanity, that the Bible has been reliably preserved, that certain kinds of data were or were not acceptable as evidence in favor of or against the existence of God, ad infinitum.
I suspended belief in God, choosing to spend more time in my old philosophy books. That’s when I decided to read Kierkegaard again. Sure, he was a professing Christian – but he was a brilliant and hilariously sarcastic Christian philosopher who had challenged me repeatedly over the years. What harm could it do? I reasoned.
I soon got my answer.
I began rereading the Danish philosopher’s book Concluding Unscientific Postscript. It was enjoyable up until the point I came across several key ideas in the book.
By virtue of its very nature, evidential reasoning is always open ended.
The quantitative accumulation and analysis of data does not inexorably lead one to transition from one qualitative realm (e.g. faithlessness) to another (e.g. faith). The jump from accumulated data, facts, arguments, etc to the acceptance of a truth is a subjective matter insofar as the subject must decide to transition from one realm to another.
Arguments against the existence of God are predicated upon a fundamental category error that identifies God as part of the spatio-temporally bound created order. “God does not exist,” he writes, “he is eternal.”
It is easy, and all too common, to deceive oneself that he will believe once he has accumulated data sufficient to make his transition justifiable.
Kierkegaard’s writing made it impossible for me to say that I would believe when I had enough evidence. It also made realize that I was the problem, not the evidence in favor of God’s existence. I was lying to myself, saying that I would believe given I had enough evidence, all the while knowing that evidential reasoning is always open-ended.
I was confronted with the real issue:
I didn’t want to believe.
The Cross of Christ
Kierkegaard’s writing presented me with a clear picture of myself: Faced with either God or absurdity, I dug in my heels and clung to absurdity. But I was being cornered day by day, as the futility of attempts to be my own sovereign diurnally lingered in my mind, an unwanted and unruly guest. I had nowhere to go, nowhere I could go.
So what did I do?
I suppressed the truth in unrighteousness until the weight of my guilt was more than I could bear. I suppressed the truth in unrighteousness, despite feeling the flames of Hell reach for my feet as I wandered to and fro. I continued this way for some time, until I was struck by the thought:
Christ died for sinners.
From my corner, I could see only one thing: The Son of God hanging on the cross, bearing my punishment. I understood what I had never understood before. God’s justice was no longer compelling and appalling, but beautiful and glorious, and nothing to fear since Christ had suffered in my place. I deserved eternal punishment, but the Son of God suffered and died in my place, to save me. Me.
Without applying any effort, despite my best efforts to remain an atheist in fact, I found that I had come to believe the Gospel.
In retrospect, I see the Lord’s hand in all of my experiences. I see his hand sparing me from overdosing, being imprisoned, dying from a terminal illness, losing my mind, losing my family, losing my soul. I see the Lord granting me the acuity to flesh out philosophical systems to their logical conclusions and, thereby, understand, and lament over, the futility of all rogue philosophizing. I see how my foray into substance abuse and sexual promiscuity led not only into deep states of depression, anxiety, confusion, but also clarity of thought to understand that they could never give me the peace with God I needed.
I was reconciled to God by the cross of Christ.