Religious Truth Can Be Known

Jason Dulle

When Christians talk about Christianity with non-believers (specifically atheists and agnostics) we often encounter some standard responses. One typical response goes as follows: Religious claims cannot be proven, so religious claims are irrelevant. Another form of this argument goes as follows: Because we cannot prove any particular religious opinion right or wrong, we must accept all religious claims as equally valid.

Notice that these kinds of responses are mere assertions. No justification is offerered by the non-believer to justify such claims. It is often the case that those who make these sort of stock objections to Christianity will do so without any accompanying evidence in support of their objections. Yet when the Christian asserts the existence of God he is made to jump through hoops to convince the atheist or agnostic that his belief is worthy of belief. This sort of double standard is unfair, and should be pointed out to the non-believer.

Christians need to insist that the atheist offer the same sort of justification for his belief that God absolutely does not exist that he requires the Christian to offer for their belief in God's existence, otherwise it is an unfair game with two sets of rules. When the atheist comes to realize that his conclusions are based on incomplete and partial evidence he can no longer require the Christian to present conclusive and indisputable evidence for God's existence. The issue is not which position is indisputable, but which position has better support in favor if conclusions.

It is logically flawed to say that since we cannot absolutely prove a particular religious position to be true that we must accept all religious claims as equally valid or equally invalid, being prohibited from claiming that any position is right or wrong. To say that because there are a plurality of beliefs about God that no one belief can be true is like saying that if four students give four different answers to one math question that there must not be any correct answer, or that none of the four answers can be right. It does not follow that a plurality of beliefs is indicative that truth does not exist, cannot be known, or cannot be expressed in any one of those beliefs.

The argument assumes that since no religious claim can be absolutely proven to be true that no religious claim can be accepted as true. But is the standard of "absolutely proven" a fair standard for religious truth? Do we employ this same standard for other truth claims? No. We believe in the historical existence of George Washington because we have good reason to believe that he existed and no good reason to doubt it, and yet his existence cannot be absolutely proven. Even the law allows for convictions based on evidence beyond reasonable doubt, meaning a certain measure of doubt may remain in one's judgment. A criminal may be acquitted of his crime because it cannot be proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed that crime, even though he may indeed have committed it. The fact it could not be conclusively proven, or proven beyond reasonable doubt that the criminal did in fact commit the crime does not make him innocent of the crime if indeed he committed it. Just because something cannot be proven absolutely does not mean that it is not true, or that we do not have good reason to accept it as true.

While God's existence cannot be proven beyond all doubt, enough reasonable support can be given for His existence that anyone can reasonably conclude that God does indeed exist. When it comes to truth there is little for which we can have apodictic certainty or indubitable knowledge. Most of our beliefs about truth are based on probability and reasonable assurance. When it comes to God, then, we would be inconsistent and unfair to require that the bar of truth be raised beyond the level of probability before we can conclude that God's existence is true.

Yes, there are many religious ideas, but these ideas can be tested to verify some and falsify others. The criteria used to determine our acceptance of a religious claim is not that it be proven absolutely, but that it be supported by reasonable evidence--evidence worthy of belief.

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