Reasons to Believe

Believers and Unbelievers, Part 3 (of 3)

In Parts 1 and 2 of this series I explored how believers (biblical theists) and unbelievers (atheists or skeptical nontheists) attempt to explain both belief and disbelief in God from their distinctive points of view. In this third and final article I will offer some suggestions that both believers and unbelievers can utilize to test and evaluate their beliefs about what may be the ultimate question of life: Does God exist? This query may be the most critical question in one’s comprehensive worldview.

  1. Believers and unbelievers can grow in philosophical reflection by exploring whether their beliefs about God are based upon rational, nonrational, and/or irrational considerations (or even a combination thereof). Rational considerations involve things like arguments, facts, evidence, reasons, explanations, inferences, and so forth. Nonrational considerations may include things like intuition, feelings, needs, preferences, fears, desires, etc. Whereas irrational considerations arise when a person forms a belief that violates the necessary and irrefutable laws of logic or standard principles of reasoning. Of course, rational factors should be given priority. But nonrational factors may be quite compatible with what is first determined to be rational.

  2. Both believers and unbelievers can test their beliefs about God’s existence by reflecting upon what is called the explanatory power and scope test. This important worldview test asks whether the theistic (biblical) view or the atheistic (naturalistic) view can best explain the facts of reality (“power”). And this test also attempts to measure the range of explanations offered by the respective viewpoints (“scope”). A viable belief system will both explain reality in sufficient detail and be able to account for a wide range of life’s important realities and phenomena.

  3. Both perspectives can also utilize the pragmatic and existential worldview tests. The pragmatic test examines a belief system’s practicality and workability (useful results for humankind). The existential test explores whether a particular belief system is actually livable (provides meaning and purpose in life). A viable belief system should be externally workable and internally livable.

There are other ways of testing one’s important beliefs, but these three examinations can help believers and unbelievers in God to critically examine their perspectives. For more on the question of God’s existence see my two books, A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth Claims to the Worldview Test (Baker, 2007), and Without a Doubt: Answering the 20 Toughest Faith Questions (Baker, 2004).

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Subjects: Atheism, General Apologetics , Naturalism

Kenneth R. Samples

I believe deeply that “all truth is God’s truth.” As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity’s truth-claims. Read more about Kenneth Samples.