General Theism (Part 1): Intro

Imagine you’re at home watching Netflix, playing computer, reading a good book, or whatever it is you do in your free time. You receive a call from a trusted friend, and as soon as you answer, they immediately yell “You’re never gonna believe it, I just saw _____!”

I contend that your response to your friend’s exclamation will depend substantially on what it is they claim to have seen. If, for instance, it’s “a live T-Rex rampaging through New York,” you’re immediately going to suspect that they’re joking or hallucinating. If it’s instead “Tom Cruise walking down the street,” you may be a bit suspicious but willing to believe them after further questioning (are you serious? are you sure it wasn’t just a look-alike?). If it’s “a really cute cat,” you’ll probably just take them at their word.

In each case, you have the same “immediate” reason for believing that your friend saw the object in question: their testimony. The difference between your responses is due, then, to a priori beliefs that you have about live T-Rex’s (there are none), Tom Cruise (he surely walks down streets sometimes), and cute cats (they’re everywhere because cats are adorable, change my mind).

Similarly, when assessing the question of whether the Christian God exists, our response to the “immediate evidence” for Christianity’s truth will be shaped by the background knowledge we bring to the table. (Note that by the above analogy I am not implying that belief in Christianity amounts to taking someone’s word for it. All I mean to say is that whatever kind of evidence we’re looking at, our prior knowledge will affect our interpretation of it.)

So what kind of an attitude should we have about God before we even see the evidence for Christianity? Is He more like a live T-Rex, Tom Cruise, or a cat? By assessing arguments for and objections to “general theism,” or belief in a monotheistic God of any kind, we can better determine how skeptical we should be of any particular person or group who claims to be revealing Him to us.

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