I have a wonderful friend who is an agnostic Unitarian Universalist. My friend is willing to debate me one-on-one as well as on social media about all kinds of topics and I find her thoughts extremely helpful and even inspiring. She brings up points I’ve not considered and appeals to a basic ethic of common decency that humans should follow. Her beliefs (as I understand them, of course!) are similar to the beliefs of Dr. Michael Shermer, as expressed in this debate with Dr. Frank Turek. I have many concerns about the philosophy of the Unitarian Universalists which I’ll look at in another post, but I am more interested in her agnosticism.
An Agnostic Argument
The word “agnostic” is made up of two parts: a- (meaning no, or not) and the Greek gnotos, or “known”. Most agnostics would assert that we as humans cannot know whether there is a god/God or not since we don’t have access to knowledge outside of our materialistic framework. While the Christian worldview offers a moral argument against this in Romans 2:12-16 (in a nutshell, God has given every person a sense of right and wrong and that they will be held accountable based on what their conscience says at the final Judgement), that argument assumes that the Bible is authoritative; this would not be apparent to an agnostic. I contend, instead, that a person can know truth concerning an entity one might call God while avoiding any mention of ‘religion’!
First, you certainly can know truth outside the material world. (And before you say, “there is no truth,” I would ask you “Is that true?” Regardless of your answer, you’ve made a truth claim!) For instance, abstractions like mathematical concepts, the laws of nature and logic, and even “love” and “justice” are all independent of our physical world. Their existence is discovered and verified through philosophy, science and human interaction. This counters the first premise of the agnostic argument.
This brings us to the second premise of the agnostic argument. An agnostic might then say you could know about things that are independent of the universe, but the existence of God is certainly not discoverable like numbers or logic are. On the contrary, again without resorting to religion, you could argue the existence of God from various angles.
For instance, Aristotle, in part 7 of Book 12 of his Metaphysics, claims that an Unmoved Mover, or Prime Mover, must exist to set in motion everything else as a logical and philosophical necessity. Moreover, the Kalam Cosmological Argument states that:
- Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
- The universe began to exist.
- Therefore, the universe has a cause.
This simple philosophical argument has been fleshed out both in the sciences of cosmology and physics. Aristotle’s work and the various cosmological arguments for God’s existence converge to give us a Necessary First Cause to our universe that is not a part of the material world. (And before you say “What if the universe has always existed?”, I’d invite you consider the Second Law of Thermodynamics and the consequences of an eternity of rising entropy… if the universe has existed eternally in the past, then our universe would be a very cold, dead place; it is, however, not.)
While all of this certainly does not prove a Judeo-Christian God, it ought to give pause to an atheist when they emphatically state that “there is no god.” You will find that famous atheists, when drilled down to defend their atheism, make honest yet logically fallacious statements like “nothing created something” (Richard Dawkins in the Q and A session of his debate with Cardinal George Pell in 2012) or resort to distraction or disruption to stymie honest dialogue (see debates featuring Christopher Hitchens and Lawrence Krauss as examples). Even atheist physicists will make ridiculous statements like “philosophy is dead”, which is itself a philosophical statement, to avoid the issue altogether like Stephen Hawking does at the 2011 Google Zeitgeist Conference.
One final point for the agnostic to consider. Even if you acknowledge that there is a “God” out there, many would argue that “All religions lead to God!” so it doesn’t matter if you pick one or not. If that’s the case, I’d invite you to watch this video by Ravi Zacharias which explores the fallacies of the Baha’i faith and the Law of Non-Contradiction or this video where he addresses the question directly. Basically, if at least one religion is wrong, then it is impossible that all religions can be right. And even if you claim that all religions are correct, that inclusiveness automatically excludes the exclusive religions, thereby nullifying your own statement!
If you are still agnostic, I urge you to make a decision. Jesus warns in Matthew 12:30 that “Anyone who is not with Me is against Me, and anyone who does not gather with Me scatters.” Contrary to cultural norms, there actually is a lively debate with many convincing arguments for God’s existence, and startlingly few against (the most popular and potent of which is the Problem of Evil. Check out this fantastic debate between Dr. Michael Brown and Dr. Bart Ehrman on the subject)! Finally, if you choose not to engage in that debate, consider Pascal’s wager: If there is no God, you have nothing to worry about. But, if there is a God, you just might have to answer to Him for your life with eternal consequences. Eternity is a long time… Are you willing to take that wager?