Clarity vs. Probability and Plausibility

From The Clarity of God’s Existence by Dr. Owen Anderson

Clarity conflicts with the view that God’s existence is only probable. Such a position concedes that it is possible that God exists and possible that God does not exist. A given argument might make it appear more or less probable that God exists. William Lane Craig takes this approach in his assessment of the truth of Christianity. The standards that he uses for the truth of a worldview are internal consistency and accordance with the known facts of experience. It is unclear how probability applies to selecting a worldview:

Notice that such a test does not guarantee the truth of a worldview. For more than one view could be consistent and fit all the facts yet known by experience; or again, a view which is systematically consistent with all that we now know could turn out to be falsified by future discoveries. Systematic consistency thus underdetermines worldviews, and so, as in the case of inductive reasoning, we must be content with plausibility or likelihood, rather than rational certainty.

However, this approach mistakes the probability of outcome with plausibility. The claim that God’s existence is highly probable because the speaker finds that various considerations lean in that direction, is really a statement about the speaker. Another person might hear the same considerations and still be convinced of atheism. What is plausible to one is not so to another; plausibility is subjective. Some outcomes can be known probabilistically. Past outcomes can be calculated statistically to give a probabilistic prediction of what might happen. This approach assumes that the future will be like the past, which is an assumption that cannot be calculated probabilistically without circularity. For something to be known probabilistically there must be a limited number of possible outcomes. If the possible outcomes are infinite then the probability cannot be calculated because probability requires a ratio.

In relation to what is the given belief probable? Pascal’s Wager is susceptible to the “many gods” objection. It is not clear which worldview should be chosen or upon which to be wagered. Multiple worldviews include an afterlife and transcendent being. It is far from clear that Historic Christianity should be wagered on, and if all that is available to humans is “the wager,” then Historic Christianity should not be wagered on because its redemptive claims become incoherent—due to the fact that this probabilistic approach provides the unbeliever with an excuse. Unbelief cannot be ruled out and as such is a viable option. Therefore, it is not inexcusable, and does not carry with it guilt or the need for redemption. The probabilistic approach is inconsistent with the inexcusability of unbelief. It cannot support the claim that unbelief is culpable.


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