The inherent problem a Naturalist has is that they cannot escape their own paradigm—the closed universe of natural laws and scientific method. This is the legacy of Western Enlightenment thinking, which is technically called Metaphysical Naturalism.
An Enlightenment philosopher who held this worldview, David Hume, argued that our reality must fit inside the laws of nature, therefore, miracles are impossible. Modern agnostics and atheist scholars, like Bart Ehrman, have resuscitated and adapted Hume’s argument. But as we saw in “The resurrection of Jesus Christ – Part Four,” this is circular reasoning. Even those who followed Hume said this position is untenable.
I recently make the point in “The resurrection of Jesus Christ – Part Five” that: “while science is very good at analyzing and testing observable data, it cannot help us transcend the natural world or answer the deeper existential questions that also must be answered. It cannot answer why science, and why there’s even such a thing as the natural world. These are philosophical questions.”
My view was challenged by an atheist blogger who often comments here and goes by the moniker, Arkenaten. He asked me to show how my religion can answer questions that science cannot answer. The problem with this question was that he did not set it up in a valid way. He was apparently looking for scientific evidence, which would be self-refuting since you cannot show what’s beyond the limits of science by using scientific method.
Atheist activist and naturalist historian, Richard Carrier, said that science puts an effective end to worship:
“Wherein worship is replaced with curiosity, devotion with diligence, holiness with sincerity, ritual with study, and scripture with the whole world and the whole of human learning”. Carrier wrote that it is the naturalist’s duty “to question all things and have a well-grounded faith in what is well-investigated and well-proved, rather than what is merely well-asserted or well-liked.” (quoted from Wikipedia)
But does Carrier’s assertion make it true? First, he makes the assumption that the worshiper must leave the worship of God for scientific inquiry. This is a false dichotomy. Second, he assumes that the worshiper’s faith is based on an ungrounded emotional experience, simply a popular opiate for the unenlightened. This is simply an ignorant dismissal of faith and it still does not address the existential questions before us.
To even talk about breaking out of this closed system we must turn to philosophy.
How would Hamlet know about Shakespeare?
To illustrate my point, I adapted C.S. Lewis’s famous Hamlet and Shakespeare analogy. It’s not a perfect analogy, but it fits perfectly to what I believe is the Naturalist’s dilemma. Here’s my adaptation:
Hypothetically speaking, suppose that we could observe Hamlet’s world. We notice one day that Hamlet becomes self-aware and begin to suspect that everything in his life seems arranged, almost as if following a script. The question is, how would Hamlet find out if his suspicions are true? And more importantly to my point, could Hamlet use the scientific method to find this author? Let’s even assume he has 21st century science available to him. The answer should be obvious: no matter how much Hamlet tried to find scientific evidence for an author, he could never go beyond the script he was living in.
Hamlet can infer an author by how his life seems arranged, even perceive the author’s style or disposition toward him as a “person” (character in a play). But one thing Hamlet could not do is produce scientific evidence for an author’s existence. Why? Because Shakespeare does not live in Hamlet’s world. Shakespeare exists in a completely different dimension, if you will.
This is the dilemma for Naturalists in Hamlet’s world (and ours). Either they have to ignore the implications of an author and by appealing to the scientific method, conclude that “there’s no Shakespeare” (and they would be wrong because Shakespeare did in fact exist and was the author), or they have to admit there’s a possibility of something outside of their natural world that they cannot see and test with the scientific method.
But for the Christian this is not a problem. Not only can we infer an author by the design aspects of nature, but also by way of this analogy. We would say that “Shakespeare” solved this problem by writing himself into the play! Likewise, God traversed the infinite dimensional gulf between His world (Shakespeare) and our natural world (Hamlet) by becoming a human being and living in the flesh among us in the person of Jesus Christ. And Jesus proved who He said He was by being raised from the dead. I’ve shown this to be a valid argument in my series, “The resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
Now, while the Naturalist can disagree with our philosophy, he or she cannot demand scientific proof for something outside of the natural world. That is a self-refuting argument. And until Naturalists see this, they’re not even addressing the question.
Here’s the video clip of C.S. Lewis’s famous “Shakespeare” response to Nikita Kruschev’s declaration in 1961 that his cosmonaut went into space and did not find God, therefore, God does not exist. It takes some serious thought to follow Lewis’s philosophical argument but it’s brilliant and well worth the effort.