In the article entitled ‘A ‘Conversation’ with ‘God” (CWG), an anti-ontological argument for God’s inexistence was tendered from premises which derived from his seeming non-interventionist nature and lack of attribute to natural disasters in recent times. The foundation and conclusion of this argument is sketched below:
1. God and his people make up an entity than which nothing greater can be imagined.
2. As his people change, so God changes to ensure ‘tenet’ 1.) remains so.
3. Therefore, if the change so requires, God can choose not to be necessary.
4. Hence God may not exist necessarily.
5. CWG concludes the God does not exist necessarily.
All well and good! However, the reaction of others to the arguments of CWG and a careful re-read on my part have brought to my notice a loophole in the argument proffered above which may render the conclusion in 5.) inaccurate and leave us rather unsatisfactorily stuck with the inconclusive tenet 4.). Please suffer me a few minutes of your time to elaborate.
The crux of the issue lies in what we mean by a perception of God. One could argue that all encounters with God in the Old, New and post-New Testament are mere perceptions of him to confirm his existence and not actually him. It’s as though we observe him from behind a thick glass door and form an impression of him in our minds which is not accurate to his true image. In the Old Testament, he was perceived as a fear-inducing, ready-to-intervene God, swift to justice as in the story of Noah’s ark and the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. The New Testament offered a new and probably much more helpful view in the shape of his son who through the miracles he wrought sought to embellish the idea of his existence and might in the minds of a disbelieving populace. And finally, for the post New Testament, the stories in the shape of the chapters of the Bible especially that chronicling the final miracle of resurrection was offered as proof of his existence. (I hasten to point out though that if this is all true, that’s a rather paltry deal we’ve been handed compared to the past! )
As mentioned, all these could be impressions formed by mere mortals who are unable to fully conceive of the entity that is God. So, there may be an over-riding God who to prove his existence and lead his people to redemption causes these perceptions to be manifest to them. Therefore, unlike as described in CWG and summarized by tenet 1.), this entity can now stand alone as the greatest than which none can be conceived – thus harking back to Anselm’s ontological argument.
However, before we draw a conclusion, it is instructive to now re-examine what this entails for the perception held of God post New Testament. As already pointed out, the raw deal handed to us with little or no direct evidence leaves us in poorer fare than our ancestors for we are left to blindly believe, if so inclined, in his existence. Stories of God’s personal intervention such as St. Paul’s conversion remain just so to others, for there is no corroboration available. Still though countless wars have been fought under banners bearing symbols of God’s existence and the vagaries of religious fervor though dimmed somewhat still reigns considerably among the populace.
In CWG, it was pointed out that perhaps to put an end to this, God realizing that direct intervention would do more ill than good, simply withdrew from existence so that the relative calm of secularism might stem the tide of fanaticism. We now have to concede that perhaps this apparent inexistence is just so – a perception provided by an existing over-riding entity. This leaves open the way for a possible reveal in the future – a rather unsatisfactory conclusion I must admit!
So as was done for the CWG argument at the start of this missive, its refute can be summarized as follows:
1. God is an entity than which nothing greater can be imagined.
2. As his people change, so God permits his perception to change whilst maintaining ‘tenet’ 1.).
3. Therefore, if the change so requires, God can choose to be perceived not to be necessary.
4. Hence we may perceive of a non-existent God necessarily.
5. God may therefore exist.
PS: A question which naturally arises from the conclusions of this article is that if God does exist, what form would his judgement take on people who he permits to perceive of his non-existence? It is my opinion, that such people would be judged by adherence to the morals of a secular society irrespective of faith in the Bible and its teachings.