Would you say that you know beyond a reasonable doubt that God exists, or that the Bible is reliable, or that Jesus was resurrected from the dead? If so, then in the eyes of many, you are arrogant and close-minded.[1] So, is it arrogant to claim to know that God exists? Let’s answer this question by first asking whether it is arrogant to claim to know anything at all.

Certainly, it could be sometimes. If you have not done any research or digging or thinking and claim to know something about the world and nobody can change your mind, then this type of “knowledge” definitely carries with it an air of arrogance and close-mindedness. But, surely not all knowledge is arrogance. It can’t be.

Without getting too far into epistemology, how do we determine when it is arrogant to claim to know something? Those who claim it is arrogant to know that God exists wouldn’t argue that it is arrogant to know that carrots are orange. This is indeed a different class of claim than that God exists, but it’s a starting point. It shows that not all knowledge is arrogance. Since not all knowledge is arrogance, how do we determine what knowledge is arrogance?

Maybe claiming to know things that you cannot sense is arrogant. Under this view, it’s not arrogant to claim to know that carrots are orange because we can observe them through our senses. But, it would be arrogant to claim to know that God exists because we cannot perceive His existence with our senses. However, people can also know things by reasoning to the best explanation. Take for example someone who comes home after work and their front door is wide open, their TV and other valuables are gone, and most of their stuff is tossed about the floor. It would be reasonable for this person to claim to know that he was robbed.

Another problem with only accepting knowledge that comes from the senses is that the claim “knowing that God exists is arrogant” cannot be tested with the senses. Why is it arrogant to know that God exists, but not arrogant to know that it is arrogant to know that God exists? There is now a double standard.Overall, the “it’s arrogant to know that God exists” quip is mostly a kind of debate tactic that misrepresents the Christian’s claim. The problem seems to be that many skeptics assume that when a Christian says they know God exists they are saying that they have 100% certainty. But, this is not always the case.  A Christian can rightly claim to know God exists even though they might not be as certain of God’s existence as they are of their own existence, for example. Jack Cottrell, in his book The Faith Once For All,does a good job of explaining this issue of certainty and probability:

Finite human beings can have 100% certainty only on formal matters of math and logic; the egocentric predicament prevents such certainty about all matters of fact. This is just the nature of human knowledge. We are limited to probability in all matters of fact. It is a serious error, though, to equate probability with uncertainty…There are different degrees of probability; and where evidence and logic show that a statement is true with a high degree of probability, it is both irrational and immoral to deny it. We can indeed establish that some things are true ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.[1]

Even if you disagree with Cottrell and would claim to be 100% certain that God exists, the point is the same. The existence of God is an example of something we can know to be true beyond a reasonable doubt though it is unperceived by our senses. The reasonable and rational case for the existence of God can be made through logical means. Therefore, we can know that God exists. It’s not arrogant to claim to know things that have been rationally demonstrated to be true beyond a reasonable doubt. Don’t let the arrogance tactic derail you. You can turn it on its head.

 

Footnotes

[1] See this Huff Post article, for example.

[1] Jack Cotrell. The Faith Once For All. (Joplin: College Press, 2002), pg. 15.