Atheist hypocrisy: How mysteries demonstrate the existence of God
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Mysteries abound in the universe. What are dark matter and dark energy? How does quantum entanglement work? What existed before the Big Bang? Was there even a "before?" What's the solution to the Fermi Paradox? And this is a short list. There are mysteries in Christianity too. But mysteries in science are tolerated, but mysteries of the faith are used as justification for unbelief. Why the difference?
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LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - When an atheist confronts a Christian, they often challenge some of the core ideas at the heart of the faith. Often, Christians are hard-pressed to provide answers. Christians are asked to explain the Trinity, the Immaculate Conception, the conception of Christ, the whole story of Adam and Eve, Original Sin, and why the crucifixion of Christ was necessary at all.
These are profound questions without simple answers. It's not much different than asking a physicist how nuclear fusion works. There are short answers that will suffice for most, but if a person wants a complete, in-depth answer difficulties will present themselves. A certain level of understanding is required to approach comprehension. How can anyone understand nuclear fusion without understanding physics? The atheist often lacks the prerequisite knowledge of religion. Heck, the Christian often lacks the knowledge to explain! But the elementary school science teacher's inability to explain to primary school students should not be construed as evidence that nuclear fusion is a hoax. Why are Christians held to a different standard?
There's one critical difference between the atheist's approach to the Christian versus the scientist. Scientists get passes that Christians do not.
For example, an atheist may ask about multiverse theory, the idea that multiple universes exist. While the scientist may offer some ideas by the end of the lecture the conclusion is the same, it's a mystery. Nobody can be sure because it's a mystery that our scientific instruments cannot probe, at least not yet.
But when the theist is pressed to explain a Christian mystery, the failure to provide a conclusive answer is seen as an indictment of the faith.
Why are mysteries okay in science, but not okay in the realm of Christianity?
It's because of hubris, and the assumption that Christianity is false while scientific inquiry is "real," or "genuine."
First, a brief defense of science. Science is a verb, it is a method of rational inquiry that eliminates bias and helps discern probable truths. It's powerfully effective and helps us to understand the natural world. Scientific inquiry is a noble profession worthy of pursuit.
Mysteries exist in science because it is a method of inquiry into something real. We are not born with perfect knowledge, so we must explore. But our knowledge has limits. Our ability to explore has limits. Over time, we can push those limits further out, but the limits remain. But this is expected. When a scientist says, "We don't know yet," most are satisfied with the answer and wish the researcher well as they continue their inquiry.
When it comes to a work of fiction, our expectations are different. For example, we may ask a question of a best-selling author. Why does this magical wizard do this, or have this ability? What is the answer to this mystery? And the author could reply, "It is because the wizard has a sister who is just as powerful, but I have not introduced them yet." And readers would answer, "Oh, exciting!" And when the new book is published, they will read it with excitement and the new bits will be added to the canon of the story. And it is expected that when the story's last installment is published, every mystery will be revealed. The story will snap shut perfectly and satisfyingly, with a click like the cover on a pocket watch.
This makes sense for fiction. And that is why atheists assume Christians should be able to answer every question to their satisfaction. If you're Christian, and you've read the book, then you should be able to answer all the questions!
But Christianity is not fully explained by the Bible. There are mysteries of the faith that cannot be explained, even logic fails. This is no different than physics. There is no unifying theory of everything in physics; at the quantum level tiny things do not behave like big things, and it makes no logical sense. Nobody can explain why. Yet, nobody suggests we junk the entire body of knowledge generated by the study of physics. Conversely, when Christians reply, "I don't know," the atheist moves quickly to junk the faith.
But this is an error. Christianity's mysteries are logical evidence that it is true, just as the physical universe is true. And there are limits on our ability to perform inquiry.
Here is where the atheist will suggest a false equivalence is made. For science is the study of the physical, natural realm and religion the study of the supernatural realm. And there is some merit because they are different subjects with different methods of discerning knowledge. But that difference must be respected. One cannot hold religious inquiry to the same standard of scientific inquiry. By nature, the supernatural cannot be measured. What units would one use to measure god anyway? Would we measure God in pounds, feet, miles, or light years perhaps?
But mysteries are also a hallmark of that which is real. Only in the realm of fiction are there no mysteries. In fiction at least the author can weave an answer. And if the answer is unknown, it is only because it hasn't been published yet; easy answers are the stuff of fiction.
The Church admits it will never answer the mysteries of the faith. Nor does it need to. It cannot, and it will not venture an answer, and if it did, you may rest assured it would be wrong.
Imagine a scientist who collects a jar of seawater and studies it intently. After years, the scientist reports they understand everything there is to know about the ocean. Such a claim would be ridiculous, of course. Likewise, it is with God. The most holy and religious person could spend their life studying God and they would know no more about our infinite God than the scientist would know of the ocean.
Let us be humble in our inquiry. And let us accept that mysteries are the fingerprints of that which is real, not fiction.
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- The Angelus
- Prayer for the Dead
- The Apostles' Creed
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