Every now and then I’ve seen two arguments against religion with regard to revelation. They are the problem of contradicting revelations and the problem of unclear revelation. Now I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t considered these arguments in any detailed way, but as far as I can tell each has a premise which is supposed to lead to the conclusion that God doesn’t exist or at least that the God hasn’t revealed himself in a specific religion.
Problem of Contradicting Revelations
Here the argument goes along the lines that since there are multiple religions in the world, and because they all contradict one another, then God didn’t reveal himself in any of them. So the argument goes something like this:
- There are many religions in the world all claiming to be from God.
- They can’t all be right, since they contradict each other.
- If God had revealed himself, he wouldn’t have allowed his revelation to be confused with others.
- Therefore, God hasn’t revealed himself.
Any argument like this will have to include something like premise 3, because if God revealing himself or God’s existence is not in conflict with premise 1 and 2, then we can’t get to the conclusion. For this reason I can’t imagine this formulation is so far off from any good formulation to be called a strawman.
How is the Christian to respond to such an argument? It seems to me that it isn’t very difficult, especially since a rejection to premise 3 is given by Christian theology itself. You see, it seems that this argument only works if the worldview being considered accepts all it’s premises, but in Christian Scripture we see other nations following other gods and false teachers who lead people astray which requires us to reject premise 3 by default.
Problem of Unclear Revelation
What about the problem of unclear revelation? An argument along these lines might be formulated as follows:
- The Bible isn’t clear on everything it touches.
- If God had revealed himself in the Bible, it would be clear.
- Therefore God hasn’t revealed himself in the Bible.
Here premise 2 is defended by pointing to all the different denominations in Christianity. Again, the Christian theist must reject premise 2. We have clear examples, in Scripture, that involve people misunderstanding scripture and disagreeing with one another (consider the Pharisees, Sadducees and early Christian false teachers). In Scripture itself this is understood as completely compatible with God revealing himself in it. Thus on Christian theism we have reason to think premise 2 is false.
Arguing against worldviews
Maybe it seems as though I’m cheating a bit here. But it seems obvious that if we’re going to formulate an argument against a certain worldview, then it must be possible to accept the premises of that argument on that worldview.
In the case of the arguments above, it might still remain for the Christian to give some account of why God has allowed other religions and unclear revelation. But this is an internal problem and it doesn’t seem a viable basis for any argument against Christianity.
Of course, this all comes from someone who hasn’t thought much about these arguments…