by Matt Slick
Lately, a question has been floating around atheist circles about the Christian God. I have been asked more than once, "How do you know that the Christian God isn't deceiving you?" When discussing possible responses, they continue to ask the same question and say that the matter what I say, it is all part of the deception. So, let me tackle this.
The following are eight categories of responses to the question. Following the list of eight are explanations of each one.
- By definition the Christian God is not a deceiver.
- A deceiver-god would mean that nothing could be known for sure
- Discovering the deception of this god, using the laws of logic would be impossible
- Non-falsifiability, not scienitifc, so the question must be rejected.
- What would be the requirements for a being to produce such an incredible deception?
- What is the goal of the deception of this so-called god?
- The proposal of a deceiving godlike being is not consistent with the evidence found in the Bible
- The atheist worldview makes the question invalid
1) By definition the Christian God is not a deceiver
To ask how do we know the Christian God isn't really a great deceiver, is to propose a God that is not the Christian God. By definition, the Christian God is good and holy and not a deceiver. Therefore, to ask if the Christian God is really deceiving us is to propose a god that is not the Christian God. Therefore, the question is not a valid one within the Christian context.
2) A deceiver-god would mean that nothing could be known for sure
If the deceiver God is seeking to deceive us about his existence, purpose, and the general nature of truth, then wouldn't he also be seeking to deceive everyone? It would seem so. If that's the case, then nothing could be known for sure because it could all of what we believe could be part of the big deception. Furthermore, this would mean that the atheist/critic who asks the initial question cannot know if his question has any validity, because it could be based on deception. This would mean there could be no intelligibility, no true rationality, and no way to know anything for sure - including one's own existence, purpose, morals, rationality, knowledge, etc. Ultimately, this would lead to complete absurdity and should be rejected.
3) Discovering the deception of this god, using the laws of logic
Likewise, if the God of the Bible is a deceiver (which I do not grant is a possibility), then to discover such deception would require the use of logic. If we did not use logic to discover deception, then what would we use, illogic? But, if the person says that the laws of logic can be manipulated, or there is no logic by which we could discover the deception, then there is no way to know if we are being deceived, and the question becomes meaningless. In addition, how can we know we aren't all presently being deceived about anything and everything? (see point 2) It would lead to absurdity. And we couldn't know anything for sure. You couldn't even know that you're being deceived about any knowledge.
Nevertheless, to discover if the deceivver-god would deceiving us, we would have to use logic (not illogic) to discover this being's deception. But this would mean that this evil-being would be subject to those laws since they could expose his deception. But if the critic says that the deceiver-god could be in control those laws of logic, and could manipulate them in order to further the deception, then we are left with irrationality and absurdity because we could not then trust logic. This would undermine the knowability of everything and render the initial question useless.
Furthermore, if the critic still wishes to pursue the issue by saying the laws of logic are valid ( thereby avoiding his own irrationality ) then he would be stating that the deceiver-God would be subject to those laws. This would further mean that these laws have an existence independent of the supreme God. Of course, this would contradict the Christian definition of God and rendered the initial question invalid here as well. But, to continue this, since the laws of logic are universal abstractions and abstractions required minds, then the implication is that the invariant laws of logic imply an invariant mind. Since the laws of logic do not contradict themselves, the further implication is that the mind behind them is also invariant and non-self-contradictory - which implies the Christian God's existence. But, being a deceiver is self-contradictory. Therefore, it could not be that the deceiver-god is the final and true God because it would be subject to the laws of logic and could be exposed by them.
4) Non-falsifiability, not scientific
Falsifiability is the idea that a statement can be falsified. In other words, it can be proven to be false. When something is said to be falsifiable, generally speaking, it means it can be shown to be true or not true. Nonfalsifiable statements would be such things as 1) There is an ice cream factory on the fourth largest moon of Jupiter, or 2) somewhere on the dark side of the moon is a spherical rock, or 3) there is an invisible, undetectable horse in my backyard. Generally speaking, nonfalsifiable statements are rejected.
Atheists routinely require evidence via the scientific method for God's existence. But the scientific method deals with reproducible observations and conclusions. A scientific statement must have the possibility of being proven wrong; otherwise, it does not reflect reality. But, if the atheist, on the one hand, wants evidence for God's existence, and then, on the other hand, proposes a nonfalsifiable statement about the Christian God (which really isn't the Christian God), then he is inconsistent. He is not applying the same level of logic to both categories: science and God's existence.
If the atheists were to say that no matter what answer I might provide to falsify the statement that the Christian God is ultimately a deceiver, then his assertion is nonfalsifiable. Accordingly, there would be no way to demonstrate that the Christian God was not a deceiver from his perspective. But, again, he would not be prosing the Christian God, but some other being.
I can ask a nonfalsifiable question, too.
So, if this is the realm of arguing about the non-falsifiability of the Christian God being a deceiver, I can ask an equal question, "How do you know you aren't being controlled by deceitful aliens from another galaxy, who know there is a God, but are making you not believe in Him and control your every response?"
Would anyone take my quesiton seriously? I hope not. Likewise, should we take the atheist's question seriously? No.
Nevertheless, if the critic says he doesn't know if he's being deceived by intergalactic aliens, then I can say that that answer could be caused by the aliens and it is meaningless. He would have to grant that in his world view. But, I don't have to grant it in mine, because it is logically impossible in the Christian view.
5) What would be the requirements for a being to produce such an incredible deception?
To reiterate, I don't grant that it is possible for the Christian God to be a deciever since to do so would be to deny the Christian God. I cannot and will not do that. But, from an atheistic perspective, what would be required for such a super-deceptive being to maintain such an incredible deception throughout the millenia? It would have to have omiscience and omnipotence in order to accurately predict, bring about, and maintain whatever came to pass - in order to deceive people.
Such a being would have to control a great many individuals, day after day, year after year, all over the world, and keep them deceived. He would also have to plant archaeological evidence throughout the centuries, which would later be uncovered that only appear to support the biblical record of the person and work of the Prophets, the apostles, and of Jesus which in turn taught us not to lie, to be loving, and to show integrity. How would that work? Also, such a wicked-being would have to produce fake biblical documents in numerous locations around the Mediterranean area that predict the work and arrival of Jesus in particular detail, as well as his apparent crucifixion and resurrection. And, such a being would have to make all of it look as though it is authentic. Isn't that an incredible feat of deception? The atheist/critic would of course say yes it's all part of the great deception. But, that's just an empty come back without justification.
Can the critic provide an answers to the above challenge?
The more time passes and the more people are needed to be kept in the dark, the more complicated must be the deception. Pretty soon, the deception would be so great, that it would take an incredible amount of effort for this deceiver-god to maintain.
And, by way of reminder, the deceiver-being would have to sacrifice himself (the biblical position is that Jesus is God who died on the cross), be lied about, beaten, crucified, and then rise from the dead three days later. The biblically stated goal of this sacrifice is to forgive, promote honesty, love, and integrity. So, how does this self-sacrifice benefit or accomplish the purpose of the deceiver-god?
The critic ought to explain that.
6) What is the goal of the deception of this so-called god?
If we are to assume that the atheist proposed deceiver-god exists (which I do not do as a Christian), then what is its motivation? Is it simply to deceive?
If the critic were to say he does not know, or does not need to know, then he is simply offering a nonfalsifiable assertion about an imaginary being which has no discernible reason for being deceptive. (See point 4 above)
If the person says that it is to cause pain and suffering, then why go through such an elaborate hoax? Why not just inflict pain and suffering maximally and immediately instead of slowly making it look like Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead three days later for the forgiveness of our sins?
If the present system of deception produces maximal pain, then show that it is the case using the biblical evidence at hand. Include the evidence in your explanation of how the present situation produces the maximum out of deception.
7) The proposal of a deceiving godlike being is not consistent with the evidence found in the Bible
The evidence found in the Bible does not support the idea of God being a great deceiver. First of all, the biblical God is by definition not a deceiver (point 1 above.) Furthermore, we have the biblical evidence of profound sacrificial love, of great wisdom, and incredible humility found in the person and work of Jesus. The evidence is consistent with a loving God, not a deceiver.
For God to be deceiver in this context would mean that he would be completely and totally evil in that he would live as a continual self-contradiction; namely that, he uses love, wisdom, self-sacrifice, honor, and integrity in order to deceive people. But to what end? See point 6 in response to this.
8) The atheist worldview makes the question invalid
For any question to be valid, it must be asked within a worldview context. Otherwise, the question can have no meaning. Meaningless questions are not valid. An example of a meaningless question would be "Does blue sleep faster than Wednesday?" To continue, anyone who would ask the question "How do we know the Christian God is not a deceiver" is not asking the question from a Christian worldview, but his own, non-Christian worldview. He is stepping outside the Christian worldview and judging it from a different one, from his own. Is this valid?
If the critic were to say yes it is valid, then it would be equally valid for the Christian to presuppose the validity of his worldview and proclaim that the question the critic asks is invalid. In other words, if the atheist can assume the question is valid from his worldview, the Christian can assume it's not valid from his own worldview. If the critic objects to this, then he's being inconsistent in his thinking and weakens his line of questioning.