Eller continues to press this argument, saying:
The myriad of beliefs out there about god(s), contradictory and mutually exclusive as they are, makes it just short of inconceivable that one of them could have ‘true knowledge’ of god(s) while all the others have it wrong.
He appears to think that choosing a religion is like gambling at roulette with 999 numbers on it. The choice is random and has 0.1% probability of being right. Now if that were so, then atheism, too, would be on the wheel, perhaps as a triple zero. Becoming an atheist, too, would be a random occurrence, and the probability of the truth of atheism would be no greater than the probability of the existence of, say, God315.
Eller will of course object that atheism is the “default” stance. “There is no way imaginable that we could ever determine which was the ‘true knowledge’ and which was worshiping ‘false gods.'” (163-4) Did he forget about his own Chapter 1 where he — poorly — engages 3 arguments for the existence of God? Surely, it is easily “imaginable” that these or other rational arguments in favor of theism could be decisive. Supposing Eller did a bad job at either stating or refuting the arguments, and God315‘s existence could be rigorously proved, would not he have to abandon atheism?
Now all faiths do and must build on reason. Faith is above not contrary to reason; it’s grace, a gift that could not be obtained in any way other than by revelation. I’ve linked to Howard Storm’s NDE in previous posts; consider his experience with colors:
As an aside, I’m an artist. There are three primary, three secondary, and six tertiary colors in the visible light spectrum.
Here, I was seeing a visible light spectrum with at least 80 new primary colors. I was also seeing this brilliance. It’s disappointing for me to try and describe, because I can’t — I was seeing colors that I had never seen before.
We know that different animals see colors differently; some see colors that we cannot; but that our own corporeal vision will be enhanced in the next life is a pure revelation.
That God is a unity or one we can prove by reason; that God is a Trinity Christians hold by faith.
St. Thomas describes faith as follows:
Now the intellect assents to a thing in two ways.
First, through being moved to assent by its very object, which is known either by itself (as in the case of first principles, which are held by the habit of understanding), or through something else already known (as in the case of conclusions which are held by the habit of science).
Secondly the intellect assents to something, not through being sufficiently moved to this assent by its proper object, but through an act of choice, whereby it turns voluntarily to one side rather than to the other:
and if this be accompanied by doubt or fear of the opposite side, there will be opinion, while,
if there be certainty and no fear of the other side, there will be faith.
How does an opinion solidify into faith?
… we may observe a twofold cause, one of external inducement, such as seeing a miracle, or being persuaded by someone to embrace the faith: neither of which is a sufficient cause, since of those who see the same miracle, or who hear the same sermon, some believe, and some do not. Hence we must assert another internal cause, which moves man inwardly to assent to matters of faith.
… since man, by assenting to matters of faith, is raised above his nature, this must needs accrue to him from some supernatural principle moving him inwardly; and this is God. Therefore faith, as regards the assent which is the chief act of faith, is from God moving man inwardly by grace. (ST, II-II, 1; 6)
In light of the diversity of religions, this position needs to be developed. First, grace is an influence that removes doubt about a presumed revelation. It does not itself propose anything to believe in. Even if, then, God graces a Christian with a firm belief in the Trinity and a Muslim with a firm belief in pure monotheism, God cannot be accused of lying.
Second, I have argued that some religious experiences are self-authenticating; but the phenomenon of psychological certainty that a given article of faith is true is not by itself a guarantee that the article is true. God may lead a man to Islam for His own reasons, even if in fact, let’s suppose, Islam is inferior to Christianity.
There is a purpose to the multiplicity of religions; though some are better than others, much truth is scattered among them.
Third, the certitude one may feel about a revealed proposition need not even be definitive evidence for having grace: “a man may, of himself, know something, and with certainty; and in this way no one can know that he has grace.” (ST, II-I, 112, 5)
Fourth, the “external inducement” is still indispensable and constitutes evidence for faith. Cody Libolt combs through the New Testament to summarize the numerous proofs of Jesus’ unique identity, something Eller summarily and inexplicably denies.
Finally, perhaps Islam could be interpreted not as proposing that God is not a Trinity but as failing to propose that God is a Trinity. Islam would then express no opinion about this issue. Then, if Christianity is true, then Islam would be incomplete Christianity. In that case, even if the Holy Spirit were, contrary to the foregoing argument, proposing something, as though forming thoughts in a person’s mind, in prompting a man to adhere to Islam, He would simply be withholding a truth and not actively lying.
There are then two possibilities. Either non-Christians lack faith-giving grace altogether, or it is possible that God can through grace remove doubt about false propositions.
If the former is true, then many Muslim, Jewish, and so on religionists are brainwashed fanatics who keep the “faith” through extraordinary but merely human efforts.
Note by the way that the entire concept of grace is a Christian development. If other religions don’t even recognize grace as a phenomenon or have any theology of it, then perhaps it’s because God does not in fact give any supernatural gifts to their followers.
If the latter is true, then, given the diversity of religions, it happens all the time. As a result, I must admit that the tenets I firmly cling to may nevertheless be false. I then persevere in believing from my trust in God that even if He has withheld some truths from the Christians that He nevertheless revealed to others, He has good reason for doing so. My practical salvation is not imperiled despite the obvious theoretical tension here.