Challenge: God Is Silent

Posted: November 9, 2010 by Amy Hall in God is Real, Weekly Challenge

Well-known atheist Richard Carrier has an article titled “Why I Am Not a Christian” wherein he gives his top four reasons for rejecting Christianity. The first reason on the list is his charge that God is silent:

If God wants something from me, he would tell me. He wouldn’t leave someone else to do this, as if an infinite being were short on time. And he would certainly not leave fallible, sinful humans to deliver an endless plethora of confused and contradictory messages. God would deliver the message himself, directly, to each and every one of us, and with such clarity as the most brilliant being in the universe could accomplish. We would all hear him out and shout “Eureka!” So obvious and well-demonstrated would his message be. It would be spoken to each of us in exactly those terms we would understand. And we would all agree on what that message was. Even if we rejected it, we would all at least admit to each other, “Yes, that’s what this God fellow told me.”

I hear this one quite a bit. Where would you go from here if this came up in conversation? What’s the biggest mistake he makes here? What is he missing? What would you like to explain? Give us your thoughts! As always, Brett will let you know how you did on Thursday.

  1. Sam Harper says:

    I would say, “Why do you think God would do that if he existed?” It seems to me that whether any god would do that would depend on the character of the god in question. If the Christian God existed, we know he would NOT do that because the Christian God, whose character is revealed in the Bible, is not the kind of God that does that. So the whole statement is just wrong. I might also ask, “Having read the way God is portrayed in the Bible, do you really think this same God would do what you say he would do if he really existed? If this same God actually existed, wouldn’t he be just like he is portrayed as being in this here Bible?”

  2. After a bit of thinking I have come to the same conclusion as Sam.

    My first question would be, why does God have to prove his existence to you on your terms? And in what sense does God not meeting those terms that you have set out, disprove the existence of God?

    I would also ask them if they have considered the other communications from God, specifically the Bible. I would want to know why this was not sufficient for them.

    Finally, I think it would be good to bring it back to the person of Jesus, who not only claimed to speak with the authority of God, but also claimed to be God. Again, I would want to know why they reject this as being evidence.

    If I was feeling brave that day, I may even challenge the person to prove their own existence by some extremely specific criteria as set by me, and unless they can meet my specific criteria I will conclude they do not exist.

  3. He makes plenty of assertions about God that he has no basis for knowing. It seems to me that what he’s really saying is “If I was God this is what I would do,” not, “this is what God, if he exists, would do.” Is he open to the idea that maybe God communicated in a different way than he expected? Is he open to the idea that He has spoken, but we’re unwilling to listen? What if God’s goal is not just to tell us what to do like servants, but to enter into a love relationship to humans? Even if God communicated with humans in a clear, audible way, that doesn’t guarantee that we’ll actually love him. Heck, some people might end up despising Him MORE because they want to keep their autonomy. They might perceive God’s clear commands to them as violating that autonomy. IF relationship is indeed God’s goal, then I can imagine why He doesn’t do things the way Richard would like.

  4. Jane Clark says:

    Without faith it is impossible to please God. When God goes “in your face” with someone who does not want to believe (such as Pharoah), resistance and hardness of heart is the result. Someone has to be ready, have ears to hear, to come to Christ. Otherwise, it is casting pearls before swine to give them miracles, signs and wonders. “A depraved and wicked generation seeks a sign.” – Jesus The gospel is the power of God unto Salvation for all who believe. Not everyone is ready to hear it. Obeying the truth, you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. It DOES take faith.

  5. philwynk says:

    Richard has what I call the “fish problem.”

    Imagine trying to explain to a sentient fish that there exists such a thing as an ocean. How could you possibly go about it? The problem the fish has (apart from the obvious communication problems, which we’re pretending don’t exist) is that he has never experienced existence anywhere other than in the ocean. In order for the fish to recognize that “ocean” has meaning, he has to be able to differentiate the ocean from other things. The problem is not that he cannot see the ocean, it’s that he cannot see anything BUT the ocean.

    Richard — and the rest of us — have the same problem with God. We don’t have any problem seeing God at work, but we cannot differentiate it from anything else, because we have never seen anything OTHER THAN God at work. God has already told us everything He possibly could about Himself. He created an entire universe displaying His characteristics, and it never stops displaying them. It is not the case that Richard has never heard God speak, or seen God act; it’s the case that Richard has never seen anything OTHER THAN that.

    And yet, Richard has decided for his own reasons that what he sees every day has nothing to do with God — even though it is God who has been doing everything Richard has ever seen. If Richard cannot see God in the events of nature he expects, why do we suppose that he would see them if God did something unexpected like speaking? Wouldn’t he merely dismiss such communication as his imagination? a case of indigestion? Possibly as insanity? The same mechanisms by which Richard has dismissed God in the perpetual acts of God we call “nature,” would work to dismiss God from any particular act He happens to do toward Richard. Richard has cut himself off from God, by choice.

    Short version: God has always spoken to Richard, but Richard has chosen not to hear. The one thing that God will never, ever do is violate free will, and since Richard has chosen not to hear, he cannot hear, and that’s that.

  6. Randy Biggs says:

    I would echo the sentiment that Carrier first assumes that God should act in the same manner he would. I would hope that God’s actions would demonstrate that He functions in a way that doesn’t simply correlate to our instinctual human methodology. There is an accountability inherent in the Christian worldview. We have a responsibility to seek God.

    Furthermore, God does indeed speak to us in terms we can all understand. He has revealed Himself through morality, through the cosmos, through biology, through history, etc. We need only realize that the universe is insufficient to explain itself… God is the necessary conclusion when we evaluate ourselves and our world with truth as the end goal.

  7. Ryan says:

    When talking about God goes on to say what God wouldn’t do… “And he would certainly not leave fallible, sinful humans to deliver an endless plethora of confused and contradictory messages.”

    Then he goes on to say what God would do…”God would deliver the message himself, directly, to each and every one of us…”

    My question to Mr. Carrier would be….How do you know what God wouldn’t and wouldn’t do? He is trying to speak for God as if he has some inside information. It seems what he is saying is just whatever sounds good to him.

    For the most part we do know what God would and wouldn’t do, because he tells us in his Word.

  8. Mike Bridge says:

    I like the statement made by Andrew of determining a random characteristic and then making Carrier prove that he exists by meeting that characteristic.

    I have also been thinking about this issue recently and find that it is completely disingenuous as Carrier and others state this argument that God is silent and therefore doesn’t exists. I would challenge him simply by asking if he would view it as evidence if anyone else has heard God. He pretends that his issue is that no one has heard God- but he really means God would speak to HIM this way. And he will almost certainly discount anyone else’s experience of hearing God as not credible evidence. Since others have heard God, and Carrier almost certainly wouldn’t accept that as evidence, then his argument is all smoke and mirrors. If the issue is that he won’t believe in God because God hasn’t spoken to him, fine. But God having not spoken to a specific person is not evidence that he doesn’t exist. He can’t make his experience (or lack thereof) count as evidence while other people’s evidence doesn’t count.

  9. The claim by some that believe in God is that His Word is only correct in olde KJVese. Maybe you both should get together and tell God that you have a wiser plan.

  10. Rick Yuzzi says:

    I personally think that God gives us just enough information and we get just enough prompting from the Holy Spirit so that those who want to believe will, and those who don’t, won’t. I’m not a Calvinist. I believe that we can choose to accept or reject God. We would never choose Him purely on our own initiative, because we’re fallen and sinful. But, God has made himself known and draws us to him. In His creation alone, He has given more than enough evidence that He exists “so that men are without excuse”. He stands at the door and knocks. Some choose to open the door. Others would rather have nothing to do with Him, and our decision in this life will be ratified for all eternity.

    The fact that God reveals himself this way, where true faith is required of us, fits perfectly with the Christian world view, as well as with reality. The evidence is all balanced on a razor’s edge depending on how you want to see things, and that’s not what I would expect in a purely materialistic world. If Richard Carrier were right, and this were all a lucky accident, I would expect it would be fairly easy to disprove the existence of God. Isn’t it interesting that it’s not.

  11. Adrian Urias says:

    ok, i agree with everything that the previous commentators have said. lay burden of proof, ask his reasons why he would think that God would meet his criteria. but I would save this as my second response. My first response would be something like…

    dude, are you kidding me? so you mean to tell me that there can exist a universe, or heck, even anything without a first cause, ie God? Like something just came from nothing? Does that not scream a creator to you? Or the fine tuning of physical laws? As if they were just random life permitting circumstances? Like, really?Or DNA information? You think youve beaten those odds? Or the morality? You think there isn’t a law written on your heart? You can’t know right from wrong? And there isn’t a “God” who you refer to when it comes to moral issues? In-spite of all this, you say God hasn’t declared himself to you? That isn’t enough? THAT ISN’T ENOUGH?!?! FO-SERIOUS?!?!?!

    If that point doesn’t hit him, then id go and focus on his argument.

    Dr. Craig had a debate (of course) with Austin Dacy. This was an issue that came up. I’d like to refer you guys to that, so yeah.