Plantinga and belief
We’ve been talking about atheism and apologetics and argument. But Alvin Plantinga helpfully reminds us that the Christian’s starting point is faith:
[Christians] don’t postulate the existence of God, as if this were a scientific hypothesis of some kind. They don’t typically propose the existence of God (let alone other characteristic Christian doctrines, such as Trinity, Incarnation, Atonement) as a kind of hypothesis, designed to explain organized complexity or other phenomena. They don’t believe in God because God’s existence and activity is a good hypothesis, a good explanation of organized complexity in the world. When God spoke to Moses from the burning bush, Moses didn’t say, “Hey, look at that weird bush! It’s on fire but isn’t burning up! And listen to those sounds coming out of it! What’s the best explanatory hypothesis I can think of? Perhaps there is an all-knowing, all-powerful wholly good being who created the world, and he is addressing me from that bush. Yes, that must be it, that’s a good explanation of the phenomena.” Christians do not reason as follows: “What is the best explanation for all that organized complexity and the rest of what we see about us? Well, let’s see, perhaps there is an omniscient, omnipotent, wholly good being who created the world. Yes that’s it; and perhaps this being is one of three persons, the other two being his divine son and a third person proceeding from the first two (yet there are not three Gods but one); the second person became incarnate, suffered, was crucified, and died, thus atoning for our sins and making it possible for us to have life and have it more abundantly. Right; that’s got to be it; that’s a dandy explanation of the facts.” What Christian would reason like that?
Hardly any. Rather, the traditional Christian thinks she knows these things by way of faith and its correlate, divine revelation through divinely inspired Scripture and/or the teaching of the church, the body of Christ. She doesn’t, of course, claim that these teachings constitute the best scientific explanation of some phenomena, anymore than we believe that there has been a past because we think this is a good scientific explanation of such present phenomena as wrinkled faces, dusty books, rusted automobiles and crumbling mountains. (Of course once she knows, as she thinks, that God has created the heavens and the earth she can use that fact to explain what might otherwise be inexplicable.)” — Alvin Plantinga
This faith isn’t the blind leap of fideism, but it is a quiet confidence in God’s goodness and faithfulness. We have tasted and seen that the Lord is good!