Paul K. Moser, The Evidence for God: Religious Knowledge Reexamined. Cambridge University Press, 2010.
Paul K. Moser, professor and chair of the philosophy department at Loyola University Chicago, has written a book that he thinks argues for the existence of God from a “new perspective.” He calls this new perspective “Personifying evidence of God, because it requires the evidence to be personified in an intentional agent” (ix). The Evidence of God picks up where he left off in his previous book, The Elusive God (2008). The hiddenness of God remains an important aspect of Moser’s argument. Moser contrasts his views with the views of scientific naturalism, fideism, and natural theology.
Moser begins his book with “A Wilderness Parable” which describes the content of the book. He asks the reader to imagine themselves lost in a wilderness that is not easily accessible. You are lost in a wood that is full of danger (wild animals, “unpredictable temperatures,” and dangerous foot paths) and no access to the outside world. Your only luck is that you come upon an abandoned cabin with a barely functioning ham radio. Your only hope, according to Moser, is to find a guide that can lead you to safety. You have basically four options: Despair (you do not believe such a person exists). The second option is “passively waiting.” You do not know if a guide exists or not. The third option is a leap of faith. You can just choose a path, follow it and hope for the best. The last option is “discerning evidence.” You look around at the “available evidence for a way out of the dangerous wilderness predicament” (6). These predicaments describe the four types of evidence or non-evidence for the existence of God: Scientific naturalism, fideism, natural theology, and Moser’s own view, personifying evidence of God.
Moser’s basic point is that God may have a moral reason for being elusive. In calling people to faith, God wants to move us not only cognitively and emotionally, but also volitionally. God also does not want to coerce our will to believe in Him. Moser argues that faith “includes one’s obediently receiving, and volitionally committing and yielding oneself to, God as perfectly authoritative and good” (104). In some sense, Moser’s thesis is that a “perfectly loving God would seek noncoercively to transform the wills of wayward humans, and thereby to have humans themselves become personifying evidence of God’s reality, in willingly receiving and reflecting God’s moral character for others and thus bringing God’s presence near to others” (16). Moser claims this is a new perspective in arguing for the existence of God. This reviewer wonders if this argument is not similar to ideas presented by William James, Pascal, Kierkegaard, and Marcel. Moser is critical of fideism and the thought of Kierkegaard. One wonders if his reading of Kierkegaard is accurate. He interprets Kierkegaard’s “leap of faith” as suggesting that “faith in God cannot have supporting evidence” (100). Kierkegaard is difficult to interpret. He does not speak directly. Does Kierkegaard really justify irrational faith? I doubt it.
Moser does a good job in providing experiential evidence for the existence of God. God does seem to be elusive. Does He do it for moral reasons? It does seem that God is interested in more than just satisfying our intellect. It does make sense of the question often asked by unbelievers, why didn’t God provide more evidence?