by Matt Slick
Atheists often ask for evidence to prove that God exists. They say that they want tangible, testable evidence that can be verified via the scientific method. Unfortunately for them, such a request is the wrong approach. Instead, they should look for evidence consistent with a Transcendent God. Let me show you why.
First of all, the scientific method is a system of learning that consists of observation, hypothesis, experimentation, prediction, and theory. It is based on logic and observations of the material universe and its properties.
Second, the scientific method, along with a materialistic worldview, necessarily excludes transcendence--that which exists independent of the universe. Therefore, it can't detect what is outside of the material realm since it is based on observing things inside the material realm.
Third, the Christian worldview proclaims a transcendent God who exists outside of and independent of the material universe. In other words, the Christian God is not dependent upon the material universe or its properties for His existence.
Therefore, to ask for scienfically testable, material, non-transcendent based evidence for an immaterial, transcendent God is the wrong approach because it is a category mistake--explained below.
But, this is not to say that there are not material evidence is for God's existence. For example, Jesus walked on the earth 2,000 years ago as a physical man who, according to Scripture, is God in flesh (John 1:1, 14, Colossians 2:9) and who rose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). He showed Thomas the wounds of His crucifixion ordeal that had led to that death (John 20:25-28), thereby demonstrating His resurrection. This is material evidence. But, of course, we don't have access to it.
A category mistake is an error in logic in which one category of a thing is presented as belonging to another category. For example, to say that "the rock is alive" assigns the category of life to an inanimate object. Another example would be to judge the beauty of a painting based on how much it weighs. This is a category error since the category of beauty is not determined by the category of weight.
So, for the atheist to work from inside his materialistic, non-transcendent worldview and require evidence for the non-material, transcendent God (which necessarily exists outside his perceived worldview) risks being a category mistake because it is asking for the non-transcendent evidence of the transcendent in a form that is restricted to testable, material form. It is like asking to have a thought placed on a scale. It doesn't work because they are different categories.
But, some will assert that it is fair to ask for some sort of demonstration that such a Transcendent Being exists. After all, if there is no evidence of Him, how can we know He exists? For that, see What kind of evidence should we expect from a transcendent God?
What is left for the materialist atheist to do?
This means that the materialist atheist cannot logically require material-based evidence for the immaterial without committing a category mistake, so he is left with the option of trying to demonstrate that the Christian worldview is internally incoherent. After all, if he cannot show that Christian theism is false, then how can he rationally retain his atheism?
But, to step into the Christian worldview and attempt to show that it is not true, the atheist must use logic. This requires the use of the Laws of Logic. The problem is that these Laws are transcendent in that they are not dependent on the physical universe or its properties for their validity (See, The Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God, points 5-8). But for the materialist atheist to presuppose the validity of transcendental Logical Truths--in order to argue against a Transcendental God--is inherently self-contradictory since he would be using transcendentals to argue against a Transcendental God.
Furthermore, it would mean that the materialist atheist is presupposing the validity of the transcendental Laws of Logic--without being able to justify them from within his materialistic worldview. To presuppose their validity is to commit the logically fallacy of begging the question.
The materialist atheist is left without a valid means in falsifying Christian Theism, which means his atheism cannot be validated as being true.1
- He cannot rightfully require material, non-transcendent evidence for a non-material, transcendent God without committing a category mistake. He must abandon his materialistic worldview, but this is incompatible with his atheist worldview.
- He cannot enter into the Christian worldview, which is based on a Transcendent God, and use the transcendent laws of logic without being self-contradictory in his approach.