Every now and then, on a Friday, I’ll step into the deep waters of Philosophy, ramble away on some idea and maybe even interact with it. Most of the time, a real philosopher could probably read my drivel and speak into it offering a corrective—but for now I’ll speak from ignorance. After all, it’s Friday; what better way to have fun than with philosophy. In this post I’ll answer the question “Should we consider God’s actions in historical discussions?” in under 700 words. Heh.
History, by its nature, is un-testable. We can’t put it under a microscope. Whenever we in the present study anything in the past we’re necessarily a step removed.
History, as it occurs, reports. In other words, anyone in the future depends on the report of what occurred in the past. That’s not to say that a person reports event-X but it is to say that if event-X occurs, it necessarily affects the future. Imagine being at the edge of a pond. You didn’t hear the splash, nor did you see the fish, but you see the ripple.
We can’t limit conclusions to only what is scientifically observable. If so, we couldn’t even offer natural explanations for common historical motivators: like fear, love, or courage.
Imagine someone studies my today. Sure, I’m not God, but I am a Mind who acts in history. They’d find a bag (near the front door) that has a container (bits of food), keys (they jangle and open things), a parked vehicle (warm to the touch), and a badge with a picture.
P concludes: the badge owner enjoys eating scraps of food from a container that it stores near doors; he enjoyed the music of the keys; and turns on the vehicle for warmth or to heat up small scraps of food currently stored in the container.
R posits: the badge owner works at an office and it uses the car keys to drive the vehicle to and from work; the badge gives access into work; the container holds the remaining scraps of a meal; and the individual has forgotten to take those things out of his bag.
J concludes that: the badge is worn to ward off evil spirits; the keys and the vehicle have absolutely no bearing; the container holds the remaining scraps of a propitiatory sacrifice.
You can’t decide which account is right with 100% precision so you must come up with an argument for what makes the most sense of the evidence:
One: Does the offered account explain the data? J ignores some data.
Two: Does the offered account powerfully support the data? P brings up some information that is not supportable by any data (the enjoyment of music). Likewise J (ie: evil spirits; ignores the keys and vehicle).
Three: Is the offered account plausible? A largely empty container to store scraps of food while owning a vehicle seems implausible.
Four: How made up is the explanation? It’s hard to decide which one is more made up than the other. I we separated this discovery by several thousand years R would be guilty of reading current experience back onto the evidence.
Five: Do any facts come up that disproves any of these offered accounts? So far, nothing.
Six: Which account best explains the most aspects of the evidence? Or which explanation covers the most data? So if you look at J, the explanatory scope is narrow: it covers only a few bits of the evidence. P needs evidential support for the enjoyment of music. R’s explanatory scope is also broad.
True intellectuals should be able to weigh any proposed account, even ones including God, according to all six criterions without denying it simply because of a naturalistic bias or personal preference. The only way to deny it is to say that (1) it is impossible for God to exist or (2) it is impossible for God’s activity to work in this or that way. Both are outside of man’s ken.
If a proffered historical explanation which includes God powerfully handles the widest range of data then decrying it is historiographically naïve and ultimately mere pseudo-intellectual silliness.
Should we consider God’s actions in historical discussions? Yes.
One reply on “Philosophy Fridays: Considering God in History?”
[…] it is Friday; what better way to have fun than with philosophy. In this post I’ll follow up a previous question with answering this question: “Can you be justified in believing God acted in history if you […]