Can God Prove Anything?
As I write this I am currently involved in an online discussion with two Witnesses about problems with the Adam and Eve story, the future Paradise and many related topics. My main argument is that the future Paradise that Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in is exactly how God (if he exists) should have begun the universe in the first place: a place of beauty and perfection and no suffering, where we have free will but there will be some solution for sin that does not involve condemning the world to pain and suffering (i.e., there will be no “Fall”). I mention this in my article Adam and Eve Were Set Up, but I’ll have to go into more detail later.
The conversation moved to a point that I expected it to. Rather than paraphrase, I’m going to quote the main JW site:
7, 8. How did Satan challenge the rightfulness of Jehovah’s sovereignty?
7 Some 6,000 years ago, a spirit creature challenged the rightfulness of Jehovah’s sovereignty. A selfish desire to be worshipped was at the root of that rebel’s words and actions. He induced the first human pair, Adam and Eve, to become disloyal to divine sovereignty and tried to tarnish Jehovah’s name by claiming that He had lied. (Read Genesis 3:1-5.) The rebel became the great Adversary, Satan (Resister), Devil (Slanderer), serpent (deceiver), and dragon (devourer).—Rev. 12:9.
8 Satan set himself up as a rival ruler. Faced with this challenge, what would the Sovereign Lord Jehovah do? Would he immediately destroy the three rebels—Satan, Adam, and Eve? He surely had the power to do so, and such action would have settled the question of who had supreme power. It would also have proved that Jehovah had told the truth about the penalty for violating his law. Why did God not take such action?
9. What did Satan call into question?
9 By lying and turning Adam and Eve away from God, Satan called into question Jehovah’s right to require obedience of mankind. Moreover, by inducing the first human pair to disobey God, Satan also called into question the loyalty of all intelligent creatures. As revealed in the case of Job, who was loyal to Jehovah’s sovereignty, Satan claimed that he could turn all humans away from God.—Job 2:1-5.
10. By postponing the asserting of his sovereignty, what has God allowed?
10 By postponing the asserting of his sovereignty, Jehovah has allowed Satan time to prove his claim. God has also given humans the opportunity to demonstrate their loyalty to his sovereignty. What has happened with the passing of the centuries? Satan has built up a powerful criminal organization. Jehovah will eventually destroy it and the Devil, giving overwhelming proof of God’s rightful sovereignty. Jehovah God was so certain of a positive outcome that he foretold it when the rebellion took place in Eden.—Gen. 3:15.
First of all, it takes quite a bit of creative interpretation to discern all of this from those few stories. Maybe Satan was just being Satan and screwing with things. It is never specifically said that he was challenging God’s authority. Even the story of Satan’s “fall” is a creative interpretation of Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14, which are quite obviously about the kings of Tyre and Babylon. One has to assume that there is a double meaning here. But I’m content to let this go for the purposes of this article.
The bold text is the key line I’m examining here and raises my question. Is it actually possible for God to prove his sovereignty? We’ll get to that question, but first an interesting observation.
How do we know God is good and honest?
A while back I came to an interesting realization. God could be evil and dishonest and we would have absolutely no way of ever knowing it.
Let’s imagine something for a minute. Imagine that a malevolent, all-powerful deity desired suffering and pain to satisfy himself. This deity decides to create a universe and manipulates events precisely according to his plan of suffering, pain and death. He creates life on a planet, culminating in an intelligent species. He deceives and manipulates these individuals through many different ways. One of these ways is to convince them that he is, in fact, good, benevolent and just. He authors several Holy Books resulting in division and even violent holy wars. He intentionally and carefully creates the Holy Books to have subtle flaws that result in even more division.
Best of all, this malevolent deity, the creator of evil, pain and suffering, has even coerced these people to worship him. He has fooled them into thinking that he is worthy of being praised, worshipped and even worth forsaking family for. He has also convinced people that there will be some paradise at some point. They eagerly anticipate it, await it and attempt to predict the time of its arrival. What they do not know is that it will never arrive.
This god wants to create suffering, pain and death, and for everyone to simultaneously love him. The ultimate irony and deception.
What is most significant about this story is that we could be a part of something like this right now, at this very moment, and we would have no way of knowing it. You can’t say that “the Bible says that God is good” because of course it would say that. The Bible could exist precisely to make you believe many things that will cause you to actually worship a malevolent god. You can’t say that you “feel it in your heart” because those feelings could be exactly what this god wants you to feel. You can’t say that you know God is good because you prayed and a good thing happened, because this God may be willing to grant just enough prayer requests as to make it appear that he is good. In fact, that would explain a lot about the efficacy of prayer.
There is nothing anyone can do to prove otherwise. Try it. You can’t do it, because there is always the possibility that the God of the universe is simply causing you to think a certain way.
Humans can’t prove anything about God, but can God prove anything about himself?
Okay, back to the original subject. Let’s imagine some more.
Let’s imagine the End of Times. Armageddon is over. Satan has had his chance and shown that under him, Earth is a mess. Yahweh has just killed Satan. It’s over. God has proven his sovereignty and Paradise is at hand.
But wait! Another angel steps forward and asks God, “How do we know you weren’t manipulating events the whole time to be in your favor? You are the creator of this universe and can control it at your whim. Perhaps you manipulated Satan. Perhaps you do lie. How do we know you do not?”
You see, God created the universe. He could be good or malevolent and we have no way of knowing. He could be lying, deceiving and manipulating. We cannot know. The angel in this story has a point. God could have manipulated all of the events from Creation to post-Armageddon. But can God prove the angel wrong?
How would God do it? Can you think of a way? No matter what God does, he can always be subsequently questioned about the very same thing, over and over in an endless circle. This is precisely because God has absolute control over everything. There is no authority over God who could vouch for his honesty and even if there was, we are now at an infinite regress of higher and higher gods vouching for those lower.
But you say, “God doesn’t have control over everything, it’s against his nature.” But to that I say, “Of course God would make you believe that. That is exactly what we would expect God to do if he were manipulating events in his favor” and there is no way you can disprove that.
Because there is no entity above God there is nothing that can prove any of God’s own claims about himself. He is powerless to prove that he is benevolent. He is powerless to prove that he loves us. Most importantly, he is powerless to prove that Satan couldn’t have done a better job at ruling the world, because God could have been manipulating everything the whole time and he has no way of proving he was not.
The best one can do is trust that God is being honest. But you could never <i>know</i> it and God himself could never prove it.
That is, if God exists at all. And that’s a very big “if”.
Conclusion and Request
I would very much like for anyone who has read this to attempt to figure out a way that God could prove anything about his own claims about himself. I have yet to think of anything but that doesn’t mean there couldn’t be something out there. Please feel free to comment. Think carefully before posting an idea. Always consider the possibility that God could be manipulating anything you perceive.