So what can the analogy offer us?
There is, and long has been, a field of study and engagement called “apologetics.” In the course of this series I’ve taken some of the arguments used in this field and applied the analogy to them, as a way of understanding them. Now we apply the analogy to the field itself, albeit briefly.
Indeed, only to say one thing: Apologetics, properly, is a defense of faith in God (or of any idea one might wish to defend). But it is not a defense of God.
Consider a story our author is writing, and one of her characters – call him Tom – becomes aware of the author’s existence. This would make for a curious story, one with potential and pitfalls; never mind the literature. Now that Tom is aware of the author’s existence, and her unbelievable power, and her extraordinary good will toward her characters, he is compelled to share the good news with others.
It should not surprise us to find, however, that some of these others are not convinced, and in fact they offer thoughtful reasons why they do not believe there is an author (or if there is, why it does not matter). Among these reasons, they even doubt whether the author could possibly be good, given some of the terrible things that have happened in the story.
Whether or not there is a God, clearly, in our illustration, there IS an author. That being the case, what should Tom’s objective be? Must he prove the author exists?
This, of course, is quite a curious thought. Let’s answer: Of course not. The truth – THE truth – is that there is an author. Of course the author exists; the failure of an argument to produce complete certainty does not challenge the existence of an author.
Considering that, consider this: What argument could Tom offer to the skeptics? Wouldn’t there always be some way to doubt his arguments? If they were radical skeptics – as many new atheists are – could the author do *anything* which would convince them of her existence? I daresay, no. But this is the foolishness of cynicism.
Moreover, to those who would say the author is not good, what ought Tom to say? There is no need to prove that the author is good. The author must be good; if she is not, then nothing is good, and the objection makes no sense.
So what defense is needed? It is to defend the belief that the author is good. It is to show the belief to be preferable to competing beliefs, to rebut criticisms and objections.
And what if Tom cannot convince a single other person? Is he, then, the illogical one?
Of course not. It would seem to be a flaw in the thinking of these others that they cannot believe like Tom does, since we know he is telling the truth.
Now, apart from appeals to a non-believer, what can a believer profit from this point?
We see, first of all, that there is a kind of special light by which we come to know God. That is, to know that God exists (to know an author exists) does not require special knowledge – it can be arrived at by reason. To know Who God is, to know what He is like, requires something for which reason is only a servant – that is, faith.
How else would we come to know God, enter into a relationship with Him, and love Him? Indeed, how else to know the ways, and the height, depth, and breadth of His love?
For the cynic, in a sense, is correct – there is no scientific way to prove that my prayers for safety, or courage, or understanding, have been answered. Science, though, is not in any position to offer this confirmation. Its silence is not a damning one – it’s a dumb one.*
The rebuttal is simple, because it exposes the emptiness of cynicism: How do you know anyone loves you? If you are married, how do you know your spouse loves you?
Of course, one could cast doubt on any answer you might give. So she has made a lifelong commitment? Big deal – that is probably to her advantage in some way, she will get to satisfy her goals; besides, you can’t prove it will be lifelong. So he sends you flowers? Again, this is no sure sign of love (the cynic wants to say) – after all, doesn’t he want something in return? If not, isn’t it at least to his benefit, to the sense of peace he has in his life, to keep you happy? And how do you know he’s not just keeping your attention off this other thing he’s doing, which he knows you would disapprove of…
Here, even a liberal and a conservative can get together in defiance of the cynic – we do, in fact, know love when we see it. Science is not the proper love-detecting tool. A person is.
In a like way, this is how we can know God loves us. Prayers are answered. We can see it. Let the cynic cast his doubts; you don’t have to bite.
Faith is what permits a person to see what God is up to. It is the thing that has opened Tom’s mind – for, why was he looking for an author in the first place? How could he arise from his story consciousness, and become conscious of a greater reality? It is a leap past what we can completely understand, but it is not unintelligible.
The beauty of faith is that, so long as it is sincere, it takes very little to see what God is up to. The cynic will never see it – by his own volition. (How good is God that He lets the cynic have what he wants?) But let the cynic quit his miserly insistence on pure materialism and the impoverished deliverances of mere scientism, and all the world opens up to him. Thus do the meek inherit the earth.
*I know at least one cynic who wants to say that science/reason would positively rule this out, but this cannot be done without begging the question, or ill-defining the terms, or – as I say – using a tool not fitted to the task.