A theological argument for the impossibility of proving God by science

Exactly, they are basically agreeing with atheists who claim that God should be able to be scientifically detected.


I think there’s a possible flaw in this concept. How do you know God doesn’t want to reveal himself to that extent? ID people don’t have to think we “should expect” to find scientific evidence. There just might be some out there, as yet unnoticed. Our increasing scientific prowess makes it more possible that something could be found. Or do you think God deliberately made sure that no trace of his work was left or could ever be found by any means? Going by the Bible, he was not always so averse to being revealed.

If God worked his creation through evolution, that’s another story and could render all this moot, of course. But we can’t say we know that for a fact either.

Well, God did reveal in the bible, but only from his own will and through miraculous unique events rather than regularities. I think it makes sense that God left no trace if he doesn’t want to be found, and if he wants that, why not showing? I’m not saying that God cannot reveal, just that it seems silly to me that we can set up a scientific experiment to force him to reveal, we can only hope that he choses to do that of his own good will.

Why would God leave hidden traces that are super hard to find and need highly developed science and not obvious and easy to find ones?

Well, he (hypothetically :slight_smile: ) made us as living creatures not obviously hammered together or anything, true. Are you sure that was from a desire not to reveal himself though? Only recently do we have the ability to investigate the deeper levels of our genesis. I just don’t see a reason to assume that he would have ensured that no sign of his work would ever be found by any means we might possibly develop using the tools which he gave us. He could have done so. But could we be sure of it?

Why would we get special treatment for living in the age of science if he could have made the clues so obvious that everyone in every age would be able to see? Of course, being all powerful, God could have done it, but that seems kinda convoluted and pointless, we could extend that thought further and say “well, maybe God hid the evidence in a small meteorite floating around space and is waiting for us to build a spaceship to find it, why not?”, until that reaches more and more absurd scenarios. I think the best we can hope for is that the science will be consistent with a universe with a God, but not necessarily proving its existence.

Edit: Also, the argument is that we should expect to find evidence, not that we could if God wanted. And even if we found such evidence it would be because God willed for it to be there to be found.

This also seems to be in line how Davis began to think of Romans 1:20:

I don’t know. Some have gotten special treatment in the past, according to the Bible.

Of course, being all powerful, God could have done it, but that seems kinda convoluted and pointless, we could extend that thought further and say “well, maybe God hid the evidence in a small meteorite floating around space and is waiting for us to build a spaceship to find it, why not?”, until that reaches more and more absurd scenarios.

I mean he could have made sure that we would never find evidence no matter what abilities we developed. Maybe I’m looking at this from an opposite angle from you. My question is, would God necessarily have done that? Why, and how could we be sure? Is there an imperative to stop looking for any evidence?

I think the best we can hope for is that the science will be consistent with a universe with a God, but not necessarily proving its existence.

It seems as if that is the case, for sure. But again, is that a reason to stop looking?

Are ID people saying they expect to find anything though? That’s really my point here. Some atheists may be saying things like that, and I’m not speaking about that.

By special revelation, not by their own efforts.

If he did not want to be found (unless by special revelation), then yes, and that seems to be the case.

That would save a lot of time that we can use looking for things that science can actually answer.

They expect to find huge gaps like irreducible complexity and the like to pinpoint supposed actions of special creation, usually.

The argument regarding the intelligibility of the Universe and our ability to access and study Nature, has been made for a long time. Thus we have the capacity to reason from theology to the sciences.

My impression of your outlook is that you may want God (or something from Him) to meet the criteria of objects in Nature, and in this way isolate a “god thing” for detailed study. On this basis (if indeed that is an accurate impression by me), it would contradict all Christian theology that I know.

That’s true…

…but that’s the if. If he did not want to be found, but do we know he doesn’t? Maybe putting in the right efforts could be something he wants. Can we know? My point is that under the right conditions, when he has wanted, he has revealed himself.

Perhaps. I doubt the time spent on ID efforts amounts to more than a tiny percentage of the effort spent on scientific research, etc. Also, those people have the freedom to use their time as they see fit.

Sure, but you’ve said the argument is that people “should expect” to be able to find scientific evidence of God. You haven’t shown me that ID people actually think this. They could simply be looking to see if anything can be found. Anyway, that’s all I’m really saying. I hope you understand where I’m coming from; I do get your point and you could be right that God doesn’t want to be overtly found. One might think something concrete would have turned up by now, for sure.

No, I don’t think I do. I was just thinking BB’s argument through really, and thought of this perspective, so I posted it. I’m playing devil’s advocate I guess, as I ultimately don’t think ID people are working towards any useful end. I just think BB is kind of boxing them into a position that may not be warranted.

I suggest that another dimension on this question of “does God want to be found” is: “what kind of god does he want us to think we found?” Jesus spends a good part of his early ministry asking everybody to keep his true identity “under wraps”. One compelling reason I’ve heard put forward about this is that Jesus was quite well aware of just what kind of person everybody “just knew” a Messiah must be: a king coming to redeem his people Israel and in a show of power to throw off all oppressors (i.e. “the Romans”). They were also pretty eagerly up for a Messiah that would distribute free bread to all, put down wealthy tax collectors and any other traitors or collaborators “in need of comeuppance”. As long as everybody (including his own disciples!) were so sure that they knew what a Messiah must look like, Jesus refused to openly step into the “crowd-defined” role. So a significant part of Jesus’ willingness to put his role as Messiah on open display was the necessary re-training of his own disciples about what God has in mind for His Messiah to do (and how different that is from populist, and even religious elite expectations.)

I suggest that something similar (amazingly) still goes on today. People still (amazingly! – and yet at the same time understandably; it seems to be “a thing” with us) still have an idea that the God that should be on display is a Magician show-person whose one big agenda item ought to be to make sure everybody believes he exists. And furthermore, our ostensibly crowd-pleasing magician, kindly grandpa patron should be at our beck-and-call to fulfill every fancy that we, his audience, might decide we would like. And just like the religious elite of Jesus time could site chapter and verse to justify why their expectations for Messiah should be right on target, so today many can find their favorite proof-texts for why God should be exactly the kind of operator that could surely see how reasonable our demands really are.

Even toward the end of Jesus’ ministry, his own disciples were still confused on these points. So it would be no surprise that the religious elite were making the same kinds of requests so similar to what we hear from single-minded empiricists today: “All you need to do is just give us some clear sign …” (and it is telling that you can’t tell there if I’m quoting a modern skeptic or a temple leader from two thousand years ago.) Modern skeptics are imagining that Jesus must have been in full showmanship mode then, in a “virtual ground zero” of indisputable signs (…it is “Bible times” after all, so if religion was really true there must have been miracle fireworks going off everywhere you look, right?) And yet, (inexplicably for this view of things), in the middle of the biblical narrative itself we have, not just the temple elite, but even the disciples themselves wishing aloud to Jesus that he could … just … show them a demonstration to help clear away pesky lingering doubts.

What thinking Christians should be able to identify today, is that there is a clear disconnect between between human expectations and God-reality. When we discover that our expectations are dashed, we conclude that God must not be. But what we should be concluding is … “the God in my head, must not exist as such.” And we may be quite right to reach that conclusion.

And then the real God gets a hold of us. And we begin our journey to Golgotha.


All interesting points! I’ll only note that ID people don’t seem to me to be looking for a sign to reassure their faith in God. Maybe it would be more accurate to say they are looking for a sign to reassure their faith in one particular vision of reality under God, which excludes full blown evolution. Or could that vision in some way be essential to their greater faith? Perhaps your second-to-last paragraph squares with this picture. I guess I should leave such speculation there, and not put any more words in people’s mouths so to speak.

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I really like your way of explaining this. You’re pointing out that in all of Jesus’s service and humility, he still refused to make himself king on “our” terms.

I’ve had thoughts too, especially in the Internet age, of how easy it would be for God to “go viral” somehow and reach everyone with a “clear” sign. But I’m also reminded of Matthew 12:39 when Jesus says, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign!” … and other places where he basically implies that the problem is not a lack of evidence.

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@BoltzmannBrain from what I see here, you show that you don’t understand ID so it’s not clear why you are criticizing it. If you want to understand it, there are plenty of resources out there and I think you should take the time to find out rather than posting disparaging remarks in the biologos (mostly anti-ID) echo chamber.

Let me put it this way. If you think you understand ID, please explain it in maybe four or five paragraphs here. Make it a compelling explanation! Then I’ll take this back. If you’re not able to do that, then go find out.

What exactly am I misrepresenting about ID? If you claim to have the knowledge about what “real ID” is, then I think it would be more apropriate for you to point that out, or else I will be inclined to think that you just want to catch me off guard for some very specific point about ID which I don’t know, which is very likely since I don’t participate in the ID community. But I’m perfectly open to changing my mind if you show me some good argument either for why ID is right or why I’m misrepresenting it, but in that comment you just accused me of misrepresenting ID without pointing out exactly why.


This is exactly the way apologist fundamentalists strike me. They read the bible like lawyers arguing for what is their due according to the contract they find there. They trade humility and faith for self righteous certainty. Fortunately it is just a loud minority.

Your observation seems acute and revealing (I think) of a human condition. It seems we never quite escape the allure of legalism; probably because it gives us our “certainty” fix. And who doesn’t want that? (at least to feel so about our own opinions and convictions.) As long as I remember to outwardly don my “humble apparel” for others to see, I’ll be just fine, right? Wouldn’t want to be confused with those fundamentalists! :wink: [this is written in a critical spirit poking more at myself than you or anybody else, though all who can see this in themselves are certainly invited to join in the same self-reflection.]


@Mervin_Bitikofer, @John_Dalton, @Laura @BoltzmannBrain --I have enjoyed reading these notes. Thank you!–Especially how we can redirect to accompanying Christ to Golgotha.
I wonder if you think that this commentary from C S Lewis on finding God in space is relevant to this.
God in outer space

The Russians, I am told, report that they have not found God in outer space. On the other hand, a good many people in many different times and countries claim to have found God, or been found by God, here on earth. The conclusion some want us to draw from these data is that God does not exist. As a corollary, those who think they have met Him on earth were suffering from a delusion. But other conclusions might be drawn.
(1) We have not yet gone far enough in space. There had been ships on the Atlantic for a good time before America was discovered.
(2) God does exist but is locally confined to this planet.
(3) The Russians did find God in space without knowing it because they lacked the requisite apparatus for detecting Him.
(4) God does exist but is not an object either located in a particular part of space nor diffused, as we once thought “ether” was, throughout space.
The first two conclusions do not interest me. The sort of religion for which they could be a defense would be a religion for savages: the belief in a local deity who can be contained in a particular temple, island, or grove. That, in fact, seems to be the sort of religion about which the Russians—or some Russians, and a good many people in the West—are being irreligious. It is not in the least disquieting that no astronauts have discovered a god of that sort. The really disquieting thing would be if they had.
The third and fourth conclusions are the ones for my money….
Space travel really has nothing to do with the matter. To some, God is discoverable everywhere; to others, nowhere. Those who do not find Him on earth are unlikely to find Him in space. (Hang it all, we’re in space already; every year we go a huge circular tour in space.) But send a saint up in a spaceship and he’ll find God in space as he found God on earth. Much depends on the seeing eye.

C.S. Lewis, Christian Reflections 167, 171

Having said all this, I don’t want to condemn us or our brothers for looking for God; we all want a concrete evidence of a Heavenly Father in whose bosom we can nestle, finally, physically.



…and this:

Okay - and this too!

[and could we tack on the end of this last one: “, or human mind.”?]


So–I wanted to comment, too, though that I have a deep wish to find God in a more tangible way, just as I think that most of us do. I can’t blame the ID folks for that attempt.

Rich Mullins, in his own way, describes the longing for a God who seems hard to find, but “you’ve been here all along I guess” in his “Playing Hard to Get.” It resonates with me and, I think, many of our atheist and agnostic brothers and sisters. I think that Jesus also wept and pleaded for God’s guidance in Golgotha, as @Mervin_Bitikofer noted (a deep paradox I don’t understand) in His compassion with us.

You who live in heaven
Hear the prayers of those of us who live on earth
Who are afraid of being left by those we love
And who get hardened by the hurt

Do you remember when You lived down here where we all scrape
To find the faith to ask for daily bread
Did You forget about us after You had flown away
Well I memorized every word You said

Still I’m so scared I’m holding my breath
While You’re up there just playing hard to get

You who live in radiance
Hear the prayers of those of us who live in skin
We have a love that’s not as patient as Yours was
Still we do love now and then

Did you ever know loneliness
Did You ever know need
Do You remember just how long a night can get?
When You were barely holding on
And Your friends fall asleep
And don’t see the blood that’s running in Your sweat

Will those who mourn be left uncomforted
While You’re up there just playing hard to get?

And I know you bore our sorrows
And I know you feel our pain
And I know it would not hurt any less
Even if it could be explained

And I know that I am only lashing out
At the One who loves me most
And after I figured this somehow
All I really need to know

Is if You who live in eternity
Hear the prayers of those of us who live in time
We can’t see what’s ahead
And we can not get free of what we’ve left behind
I’m reeling from these voices that keep screaming in my ears
All the words of shame and doubt blame and regret

I can’t see how You’re leading me unless You’ve led me here
Where I’m lost enough to let myself be led
And so You’ve been here all along I guess
It’s just Your ways and You are just plain hard to get"