There’s a potential false conclusion to steer clear of as you read Edward Tingley’s article, “The Skeptical Inquirer,” on which I blogged yesterday. He refers to Blaise Pascal’s statement that God cannot be known through the senses. One might suppose that he is saying that it is impossible to perceive God in any way. Whatever Tingley and Pascal might say to that, I would put it this way: While it is not impossible to see God, it is possible not to see God.
I was thinking about this on my drive home from the office, on the Colonial National Parkway between Williamsburg and Yorktown, Virginia. The drive begins in a forest of tall pines, dogwoods, oak, and maple trees, and continues along the York River, a place of unusual calm and beauty. I could certainly see God in that (his workings, that is, or better yet, his artistry). I can see him in the members of my family, and hear him in the birds singing as I sit on the back porch now.
Psalm 19:1 says “the Heavens declare the glory of God.” Romans 1:19-20 adds that
what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20For 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.
And yet many do not see God there.
The same could be said for the historical evidences for God in Jesus Christ. There is ample evidence for the life of Christ in history; see Craig Blomberg’s article on this, for example. As for his death and resurrection, it’s marvelously explanatory. It makes sense of the generally agreed facts surrounding the events, and it explains the remarkable turn history took following Jesus’ (by ordinary standards) relatively obscure life. It lays the foundation for answers such as no other system of thought can provide for deep existential questions regarding the human condition, and what is to be done about it.
Yet many can see the same questions and consider the same answers, and not see God.
The classic philosophical arguments for God, likewise, explain conundrums like consciousness, reason, purpose, the existence of the universe, and more. They, too, are persuasive arguments for the reality of God.
I and many others see God there, yet still others do not.
Though it is not impossible to see God, it is possible not to see him. This, I think is the point to be taken home from Tingley’s and Pascal’s skepticism regarding finding God through the senses. Evidence can be interpreted in multiple ways, so in the end, though the senses can speak to the question of God, they cannot decide it.
Tingley’s important reminder for us is that they cannot decide against God any more than they can definitively decide for God. Those who seek a final conclusion on the matter must look elsewhere. Pascal suggests the heart as one place to look. It’s a suggestion worthy of real reflection.