Thursday, December 16, 2010

Is Naturalism the Default?

One argument put forth against Christianity is that if we used the same tests on Christianity as on other religions we reject, we would also reject Christianity.  The idea is that naturalism is the obvious viewpoint which everyone uses to test religious beliefs, but everyone who believes in God makes a special exception in terms of their own faith.  But does this stand up to examination?

Is naturalism the default position which everyone should assume and which we should accept when other positions fail?  On the contrary, there are serious problems with naturalism.  One is where did everything come from?  If we exclude the supernatural, we are left with everything coming into being through a coin toss when there was no time, no space, and no coins.  We are also forced to believe that everything that came into existence afterward, with all its complexity, did so by pure chance.  Also, if all our reasoning is the result of prior irrational causes, there is a question how it could have anything to do with truth.  It is also difficult to explain why people stubbornly cling to this strange idea of right and wrong or that of purpose in life, although these ideas are really accidents arising from natural causes.  Also, there is the question of how naturalism can be proven.  Simply because there are orderly principles of how the universe works does not prove that there is not a God who is beyond the principles and who can intervene to make a point.  If there is a God, it is reasonable to assume He would create a world run in an orderly way so His creatures could function in it, but He could still interfere if He chose to.  Even if there are answers to these problems, they cannot simply be ignored and naturalism treated as the default position.

Now in explaining an alleged supernatural occurrence there are various possible explanations.  It could be from God, it could be demonic, or it  could have a naturalistic explanation.  It is a rare person who claims that no alleged supernatural incidents have a natural explanation.  But this does not prove there are no genuinely supernatural events.  Because there are quacks does not prove there are no doctors; because there are counterfeit bills does not mean there is no real money.  Now it may be argued that all supernatural events are counterfeit, but this is something that needs to be proven; the existence of some counterfeits is not in itself adequate evidence.  Even if a Christian apologist too easily accepts a naturalistic explanation, this does not prove naturalism true, only that the apologist is too easily influenced by our current cultural opinions.  If naturalism is to be proved, it must be proved in its own right, not smuggled in as a default.

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