As I understand him the philosopher Karl Popper taught that the thing to ask about any proposition was not, ‘Can you prove it?’ but rather, ‘Can you disprove it?’ He concluded that if a proposition could not be disproved, that is, if nothing counted against it, it would strictly speaking be meaningless.
So if I am asserting that God exists, it’s not fair of you to demand that I prove it, but it may be quite fair to demand what if anything would disprove it for me. So, if we discover intelligent life on an another planet, would that disprove my God? I don’t think so, although it might lead to quite significant changes in say, the doctrine of the Trinty. OK let’s imagine an evil that puts all other earthly evils in its shade, say, a nuclear war, would that disprove God for me? I don’t think it would; I’m used to human evil and it no longer surprises me. Or say unchecked global warming makes the earth uninhabitable, surely that would disprove the Creator and Preserver of life? His project would have failed. Again I can imagine God’s creative process leaving us behind as it has left the dinosaurs, and continuing in other worlds, with other creatures.
In fact it’s much more likely that I would consider God disproved by something terrible happening to people I love. I know people who regarded God disproved by this kind of personal tragedy and I have no criticism of them, but I don’t think I would take that view. After all, I know that God did not prevent Auschwitz or Pol Pot or Stalin or Mladic, and have recognised that in respect of preventing evil God has all efficiency of a chocolate fireguard. So much so that when some idiot tells me their prayers procured them a parking space in the busy shopping mall, I want to drag them kicking and screaming to the local children’s hospice to see all the kids God hasn’t managed to help because he’s too busy organising parking for the pious.
No, my story of God has him/ her giving total freedom to his creation and never intervening except through the actions of his/her creatures. ( Do I include Jesus as a creature? Well, I know it’s a heresy, but yes, I do)
At this point, readers may ask what on earth the value is of this deity, who not only cannot create a perfect universe but can’t even mend the broken one he has made. They may think that Mr Popper has made a good point, and that the proposition “God exists” is meaningless. This however ignores the Biblical witness to a God whose main activities are commanding, advising, threatening, persuading, cursing amd blessing his human beings. In this way it can be said that God makes a difference to the world, through influencing people. It can also be said that God suffers from the refusal of human beings to live by his/ her wisdom. The biblical God who may be omnipotent but knows power cannot make the universe he/she wants, is a credible character, and in my view, the greatest creation of human beings….
Hang on! Did you just say that God has been invented by human beings?
Yes, I did.
God is an invention of human beings as black holes are an invention of human beings. It doesn’t mean they don’t exist, but that our description of them is certainly inadequate and possible misleading, although it’s the best we can do, and can be used as a kind of space probe to investigate further. Scientists will say that black holes were invented in response to recorded data from observations. And yes, it’s the same with God: observations of the universe and of its living creatures as known here, have led the people of my faith tradition to tell their particular stories about God, which they know to be inadquate to the reality of God, but can help people to investigate further.
God is an exploratory word which does not refer to an individual being but to the source of all being, not to another fact about the universe, but to the meaning of all facts. I use the word to interpret the universe and my own life in it. One of the results of my own investigation is my conviction that if there is not some reality that corresponds to my faith in life beyond death, God does not exist, because I cannot accept that what most people get here is worthy of God. So ultimately there is a test of the truth of God.
If I turn out to be right I’ll be happy; if I’m wrong, I won’t be worrying about it.