Have you heard the one about the fire-breathing dragon? It’s a dragon that lives in my garage. An invisible dragon. That breathes heatless fire. That floats in midair. Undetectably.
Actually, it’s not my dragon, it’s Carl Sagan’s dragon (see here).
But the point is, it’s no dragon at all. An invisible dragon that can’t be detected is just as good as no dragon at all. Because there’s nothing to tell it apart from no dragon at all.
It might not surprise you to learn that atheists think God is kind of like an undetectable dragon. A fantastic creature that curiously seems to evade all recordable detection. Let’s call this atheist argument one.
But since theists are clever and resourceful, there’s an atheist argument two, which is a response to this line of thought: the mistake of the invisible dragon analogy is to think that God is merely one being among others. As if God were a part of the furniture of the universe. But in fact God is beyond being. God is the ground of being. God is the condition for the possibility of being. It is through God that beings are.
Confused? So am I.
This theistic thought is clearly an attempt to bypass the idea that God is just a really big (powerful, smart, clever, generous, etc.) being. Like us, only bigger and better. The theist thinks that imagining God as just a bigger thing is kind of demeaning. And so there’s this attempt to use categories that show that we depend on God, rather than the other way around.
But of course that begs the epistemic question:
Dear Christian, how do you know about this God?
Did he reveal himself to you? How? When? Isn’t this the kind of evidence that could be tested?
If so, then aren’t we back to the dragon scenario? (And I’m still waiting for the evidence.)
If not, how do you know about him?
I’m actually really interested to hear how Christians think this line of thought can be answered. I’m genuinely at a loss. Christianity hasn’t produced any empirically verifiable (or falsifiable) claims. And attempts to bypass the requirement that such claims be produced raise the unanswerable question of how knowledge of a completely transcendent beyond-being being is possible.
The only attempt I’m familiar with is the line of folks like N. T. Wright, who think that history is the key to making sense of Christianity’s truth claims. But their research is… well, controversial, to put it kindly. And should you really need a Ph.D. in early Christian history to know whether or not there’s a God (who loves you!)? Seems odd, no?
Help me out here.