Being pedantic about faith

Is it possible to verify that Christianity is true using philosophy?

Aquinas thought that we could prove using philosophy that God exists, that God has all the “omni” attributes normally associated with Him, that God is the first cause of everything, that God keeps everything in existence from moment to moment, that God is conscious and intelligent and designed the world around us, that the human race exists in order to know God and so on. All that using human reason rather than just faith.

However, Aquinas did not think it possible to prove the Christian faith using philosophy. So Christian teaching about the nature of God, about Jesus and the trinity and so on cannot be verified by philosophy.

Is it possible to verify that Christianity is true using evidence?

If by “evidence” we mean scientific evidence, the answer is clearly no, but there are other kinds of evidence.

Is there any other kind of evidence that could satisfy a sceptic? The question calls to mind tedious online arguments we have all witnessed between Christians and atheists. You felt something? Feelings aren’t evidence. You had a dream? Power of suggestion. You had a vision? A hallucination. Your prayer was answered? A coincidence. You were healed? Placebo effect. Your cancer was healed? Cancer goes into remission by itself all the time. You had shrapnel embedded in your knee and it disappeared for no discernible reason, and you have medical documentation for before and after, and the doctor had no idea how it happened? You’re crazy!

There’s a lot that could be said and it’s not as though the sceptics don’t make some good points. Nevertheless I will ask what I believe to be a more interesting and important question: Can a religious claim be empirically verified in principle?

Consider the following scenario: you have been transported back in time and find yourself standing in Jesus’ tomb. Assume you know 100% that this is really happening and that the dead body in front of you is really Jesus. You check and he is, with 100% certainty, dead. Then to your astonishment, he rises from the dead while you are watching. Do you now know with certainty that Christianity is true?

No, you don’t. Why? Because while you know that Jesus just rose from the dead, you don’t know what to do about that. (The early Christians weren’t sure what to do about it either.)

Therefore empirical verification of any religious claim is not possible. There will always be a leap of faith required.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s