Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Looking for (the) God (Particle) in all the Wrong Places

I have talked with many skeptics who claim that they do not believe in God because he has not conclusively demonstrated his existence to them. When asked how God might demonstrate his existence to their satisfaction I usually get an answer that consists of some criteria in which God would do something so spectacular that his intervention could not be denied. A classic example is that if God would miraculously regrow the limb of an amputee then the skeptic would believe in God. I addressed this issue to some extent in my post titled "Extraordinary Claims and Extraordinary Evidence." I personally don't think that even such an extraordinary event would convince most skeptics of the existence of God. Would they actually have to see the limb as it grows back? Would they accept that the limb had grown back miraculously if a number of people including the person's doctor claimed that the limb was gone and now it is back?

Suppose I was to propose an experiment to test for God in which 1000 people prayed that a miracle would occur. Would that be a valid test for the existence of God? Actually, from a scientific perspective that could not, even in principle, be a valid test regardless of the results, either positive or negative, and could not be scientifically accepted. In any test involving a person with volition and the ability to make choices, the test is considered biased and invalid if the person knows she is being observed and can change her behavior to influence the test. In any test of God, he would know he is being tested and could change his behavior to influence the test. Consequently, regardless of the outcome of the test, it would be considered scientifically invalid.

In other words, just about any test that any human would set up to try to examine if God exists or not cannot be a scientifically valid test since it violates the tenets of any valid test involving a person with a will who knows he is being tested. Such a test ignores the known characteristics of the Christian God, that he is a transcendent being with a will and with his own purposes.

Suppose you came to me and said that you were going to do some experiments to look for the Higgs Boson (colloquially known as the God Particle) because you wanted to see if it really existed. You showed me your list of experiments and your requirements for some positive proof that would convince you the Higgs particle existed. After examining your list, I inform you that there is no way you will ever find the Higgs Boson with these tests because they are not testing the actual known characteristics of the particle. Maybe you want to sift through some dirt from a stream to see if you can find the Higgs particle, like an old miner would pan for gold. Maybe you want to look in an optical microscope at the smallest thing you can see hoping to observe the Higgs. Those tests could never work for they are ignoring what we know must be true about the Higgs particle. Therefore, I insist that if you want to find the Higgs Boson you must look at data from CERN's Large Hadron Collider because that is where you will find evidence that the particle is real. But you ignore my advise and declare that you will only believe the Higgs Boson exists if it satisfies your positive proofs, despite the fact that your experiments completely contradict the known properties of the Higgs Boson.

So after much investigation using your list of experiments which, of course, show no evidence for the Higgs particle, you boldly proclaim that you see no positive evidence for the Higgs and don’t believe it exists. When I ask if you have carefully investigated the LHC data you reply that wasn’t one of your required positive proofs so you are convinced there is no evidence for the Higgs.

To me this Higgs Boson example illustrates the search for God devised by many skeptics. The skeptic is looking for God based on criteria that do not match the Christian God described in the Bible, who is a transcendent willful being with his own purposes and goals. Any test that puts God into some kind of pre-defined "box" and looks for evidence for him there is not a valid test for the Christian God because it is ignoring the known characteristics of the Christian God.

So what test can you do to find the Christian God? What data gives evidence for him, just as the LHC data gives evidence for the Higgs Boson? What is the right place to look for God? As this blog has indicated, I believe you can see evidence for God in his creation, the universe, but that is not the primary place to look for him. The Christian God has primarily revealed himself in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus is the data set in which one can find God. In particular, if Jesus rose from the dead, that is positive proof for the existence of God.

So how strong is the evidence for the resurrection? I think it is overwhelming. The disciples actually saw the risen Christ. That is much more amazing than seeing a restored limb on an amputee. It's seeing an entire resurrected body. If the skeptic doesn't accept that eyewitness testimony then would the skeptic accept the eyewitness testimony about any miraculous event?

Of course I'm not the only one who thinks the evidence for the resurrection is overwhelming. There are many skeptics who have critically examined the evidence for the resurrection with the pre-conceived notion that it is false and should be easy to debunk, who have become Christians based on their investigation into the historical evidence for the resurrection. A short list of some of these individuals and books they have written includes:
  • General Lee Wallace author of Ben Hur
  • Frank Morison author of Who Moved the Stone
  • Josh McDowell author of More than a Carpenter
  • J. Warner Wallace author of Cold Case Christianity
  • Malcom Muggeridge author of Jesus Rediscovered and Chronicles of Wasted Time
  • Lee Strobel author of The Case for Christ
Anyone can choose to set up "tests" for God that disregard the known characteristics of the Christian God and when God isn't found in those tests declare that there is no evidence for God. Anyone can set up tests for the Higgs Boson that disregard the known characteristics of the particle and when it isn't found in those tests declare that there is no evidence for the "God" particle. Some proposed searches for God run the risk of looking for God in all the wrong places. The right place to look for definitive evidence of the Christian God is in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.


  1. I think the problem lies in the scientism of our times, traditionally the arguments for God's existence have been metaphysical in nature and the modern scientist typically dismisses metaphysics out of hand. Thus he reads the traditional arguments as if they were scientific hypothesis rather than metaphysical demonstrations.

    To be fair this isn't limited to scientific naturalists. Whilst Stephen Barr's "Modern Physics Ancient Faith" does a very good job of combating scientism, I was shocked at how badly he misunderstood St Thomas Aquinas.

  2. Thank you for continually posting.

    My thoughts are that the most obvious proof of God staring at us every day is the date. I continually disappointed at how people choose to ignore the question of what had to have happened 2018 years ago for mankind to agree to track time from that point forward? THAT had to have been a very real and impacting event, which is the Resurrection. That is the solid proof of what so many lost souls question.

  3. IN addition to the very excellent books Michael listed another extensive analysis was made concerning the reliability of the New Testament accounts written by the preeminent legal scholar Simon Greenleaf. Greenleaf examined the writings as evidence for their reliability as though presented in a court of law and found them wholly effectual, meeting every test of the legal community, as to reliability of their accounts of the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. He applied the method known as The Ancient Document Rule in performing his work. The review of Greenleaf online at Wikipedia is worth the time.

  4. I can also recommend The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. The OPus Magnum of Alfred Eidersheim, a converted Jewish scholar of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Though nearly 1,000 pages of commentary it is nearly unrivaled in its presentation of the Jewish Culture, language usages and meanings and interpretation of the Biblical eras of Christ from the culture perspective. Well documented, footnoted and attributed it is scholarly indeed. The work on the last week of Jesus life and resurrection is excellent.