Does God exist? That question is at the heart of my God Project. So far, I’ve explored a range of answers to that question, including No, Yes, definitely Yes, and It’s a bad question. Today, I add one more: we can’t know.
This is a unique option that I’ll call “Christian agnosticism.” How does a person end up a Christian agnostic, and what does that term even mean? This post aims to answer those questions.
1. Internal God
If you’re a seed planted in a religious garden, and you are carefully tended by good religious leaders, you will probably (eventually) sprout some religious experiences.
I have had those sorts of experiences. In my own experience, God comes as if from the outside. My experiences of God can’t be conjured by sheer willpower; they are like gifts whose delivery I do not control. In other words, it feels like God exists externally, apart from me. As the saying goes, “if it smells like a duck and quacks like a duck, then ducks must exist.” …or something like that.
2. External God
But we’re not talking about ducks here; we’re talking about God. And that makes a big difference. Just because it feels like God exists outside of my head doesn’t mean that my feelings are necessarily correct. My internal experiences are certainly real (in other words, I am truly having experiences of what I believe to be God), but that doesn’t necessarily mean that an external God exists.
Maybe this “God” I feel is just some weird, function of my deep unconscious mind. Maybe it could be explained without the existence of God. In any case, warm feelings while singing religious songs does not in any way prove that an all-knowing, world-creating, disease-healing, dead-raising God exists. I might have an internal emotional experience while thinking about Santa, but that doesn’t prove that a real, external, jolly old man lives on the North pole with magical reindeer.
Let’s say that you try to get to the bottom of this: you consider the classic “arguments for the existence of God,” you read Dawkin’s God Delusion, you watch some “atheist vs. theist” debates on YouTube, etc., etc., etc.
And maybe that solves it. Maybe, after considering all of the evidence that you can get your hands on, you (A) conclude that God definitely does exist outside of your head, or else (B) you conclude that “God” was a projection all along, and definitely does not exist in the external world. Either way, you close the case and move on with your life.
But what if you don’t end up at A or B? What if, after slogging through philosophy and science and history and everything in between, you aren’t convinced either way? Or maybe it dawns on you that when it comes to something “beyond human understanding,” you could never rationally determine whether or not it exists. If this is the case, you are an agnostic; you don’t know whether or not God exists.
4. Christian Agnosticism
What are you going to do now?
One option is to live in the tension, both (1) admitting that you don’t really know if God exists or not, and (2) living as if God does exist. (This is what it means to be a Christian agnostic.)
#1 is a matter of intellectual honesty: intellectually, you’re an agnostic, and your lifestyle does not change the fact that you genuinely do not know if God exists outside of your own head. Technically, you are an agnostic.
#2 is a matter of doing what works. Since God could exist externally, and since God definitely exists inside your head, then you should probably live as though God is externally real. For all practical purposes, you are a religious believer.
Am I a Christian agnostic? I don’t know yet. But so far, it seems like a promising option.
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