The Man-Centered Myth of the “Probably God”
“By appealing to probability, apologists saw Christianity relegated to the museum of mere religious hypotheses (i.e., “possibilities”) rather than embraced as the actual truth of God.” ~ Greg L. Bahnsen
Remember that ridiculously annoying little kid who just wouldn’t stop asking why? How every answer you gave to him was met with another in a never-ending stream of why?
“Why do we eat chickens?”
“Well, we eat chickens because our bodies need food.”
“Because God made us that way.”
“Because He wants us to be aware of our need for sustenance every day.”
“Because our need for food points us to Him.”
“Because everything in His creation demonstrates truths about Him and our need for Him.”
“Because He wants to show us more and more about Himself as we live our lives.”
“Because He knows that we can only grow in joy by growing in knowledge of Him.”
“Because God is the personal source of all true beauty and goodness, and He wants us to know that. He wants us to learn more and more about Him so that we can be more and more joyful.”
“Because He loves us.”
“I have no idea after talking with you for the past five minutes.”
Okay, you never said that last part (hopefully), but you probably thought it, or something like it.
You may be both interested and horrified to know that the little Perpetual Why Machine with whom you were conversing was actually, by God’s grace, teaching you an important epistemological and theological lesson: The lesson of the never ending why, also known as infinite regression.
The Infinite Uncertainty of Infinite Regression
“If you don’t start with God, your worldview is absurd.” ~ Sye Ten Bruggencate
If we are 80% certain of a thing, then we are not truly certain of it. We do not know it to be true. It’s kind of like being 80% pregnant. 80% certainty is no more a credible claim to true certainty than 80% pregnancy is coherent description of true pregnancy. We may often use the term “certain”, but, most of the time, we are not actually referring to true certainty when we do.
Anything we think to be true, but are not absolutely certain to be true, may, in fact, be false. The same goes for anything of which we are 75% certain, 90% certain, 99% certain, and 99.9999999% certain. The lack of complete certainty allows only for uncertain confidence and conclusions, and the only way to have complete certainty of anything is to have complete certainty or knowledge of all things. In order to have complete certainty, we must know all things…or have a flawless, sufficient revelation from One who does.
Our problem as people is that all finite beings are limited in knowledge and are therefore precluded from the first option. The best that they can do is give a reason or reasons for their belief in a thing. Then, when pressed to establish the credibility of the first reason for belief in the original thing, they have to give a reason for believing the reason for belief in the original thing. If pressed, logic dictates that this process must go on infinitely, as A would be justified by B, which would then be validated by C, which would then be supported by D, and so on…forever…
This is known as infinite regression, and it is impossible to avoid for finite beings like you and I when left to our own limited little minds and understanding. Yet we have certainty because One who does know all things has personally revealed truth to us. This will be explored in more detail in future chapters. At this point, however, it is important to note that mere probabilities, however compelling or “almost certain” they may seem, never produce or lead to certainty.
When it comes to the pursuit of certainty or truth, probabilities are infinitely frustrating.
We tend to miss the dramatic difference between certainty and probability, in part because, as people who bear the image of God and live in and as a part of His creation, we all (believers and unbelievers alike) have been given enough knowledge of Him to justify and embrace a legitimate and true sense of certainty. We are certain of many things because they are certain in His Person as reflected in His creation. Even those who deny Him understand this at a fundamental level because He has made them in His likeness. Thus, He is inescapable and undeniable.
Yet when we skip or gloss over the basis for certainty when we make arguments for anything, particularly a defense of the faith, we have taken an impossible-to-reconcile detour away from the personal nature of Truth that is Christ Jesus. In such instances, we have abandoned the one and only source of certainty in pursuit of the mirage that certainty is possible without beginning with Christ. In effect, we step off the personal Rock foundation of our worldview – Jesus – and onto the wannabe autonomous person’s self-referential foundation of shifting quicksand.
We must not allow the professed unbeliever’s basis for certainty to go unchallenged. If we love our Lord and love the unbeliever, we must actively, persistently expose that his only basis for certainty is the God he knows exists.
The God of Certainty vs. The god of Probability
“. . . the apologetic task will consist, not of externally verifying the Christian presupposition but, of applying it by (1) bringing God’s truth and commands to bear upon the lives of unbelievers, appealing to the image of God in them (distinguishing between present remnants of man’s original nature and the ever-present nature of fallen man), pointing out that every fact of the world bears witness to God, and (2) doing an internal critique of the non-Christian’s system, calling down its idols, and pointing out the absolute necessity of Christian presuppositions if logic, factuality, history, science, and morality are to have any meaning, validity, and application at all. The Christian apologetic will not concede intellectual ground to Christianity’s cultured despisers or allow them to exploit theoretical foundations to which they have no legitimate claim without depending on the Christian faith. Thus, part of the Christian’s reasoned defense of the faith will be an aggressive offense.”  ~ Greg L. Bahnsen
The “probably god” of most contemporary apologetics is nowhere proclaimed in the Scripture. The God of the Bible proclaims truth. He is the beginning of all knowledge and wisdom. He never “makes a case” to plead before the “neutral”, “autonomous” man sitting ably on his little throne of judgment, ready to capably pronounce judgment upon his Creator.
Embracing the Romans 1 proclamation that “all know God” is to inherently reject the notion of any “probable god” that we might be tempted in our flesh to accommodate.
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His perfect Word proclaims His perfect, personal nature, and makes plain that all opposing contentions are sheer foolishness born of the depraved minds of men who, in their sin-enslaved state, will not bend their knee to the God they know exists…the God who is revealed throughout His material and immaterial creation as the necessary prerequisite for all knowledge…
This post is a slightly modified excerpt from The Beginning of Knowledge: Christ as Truth in Apologetics, an introduction to Christ-centered apologetics.
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 Greg L. Bahnsen, Presuppositional Apologetics, ed. Joel McDurmon, 6
© 2015 Scott Alan Buss – All Rights Reserved.