Reason 5 God Can Immediately Be Experienced

Craig said that this last point was not so much an argument for God's existence, "but rather it's the claim that you can know that God exists wholly apart from arguments by having an immediate experience of him. Philosophers call this a 'properly basic belief."'

Craig looked straight at me. "Lee, let me illustrate this concept with a question," he said. "Can you prove that the external world exists?"

The question caught me off guard. I thought about it for a moment and could come up with no logical sequence of arguments that would incontrovertibly establish such a thing. "I'm not sure how I would go about doing that," Iconceded.

"That's right," he replied. "Your belief in the reality of the external world is 'properly basic.' You can't prove that the external world exists. After all, you could be a brain in a vat being stimulated with electrodes by a mad scientist so that you just think you're seeing an external world. But you'd have to be crazy to think that. So this 'properly basic belief n the external world is entirely rational. In other words, it's appropriately grounded in our experience.

"In the same way, in the context of an immediate experience of God, it's rational to believe in God in a properly basic way. And I've had such an experience. God invaded my life as a sixteen-year-old, and for more than thirty years I've walked with him day by day, year by year, as a living reality in my experience.

"In the absence of overwhelming arguments for atheism, it seems to me perfectly rational to go on believing in the reality of that experience. This is the way people in biblical days knew God. As John Hick wrote: To them God was not a proposition completing a syllogism, or an idea adopted by the mind, but the experiential reality which gave significance to their lives."34

"But," I interjected, "what if an atheist says the same thing-that he has a 'properly basic belief1 n the absence of God? Then you're deadlocked."

Replied Craig: "Philosopher William Alston says that in that case, the Christian should do whatever is feasible to find common ground, like logic or empirical facts, to show in a noncircular way whose view is eorrect.35

"That's what I've tried to do in these other four arguments. I know God exists in a properly basic way, and I've tried to show he exists by appealing to the common facts of science, ethics, history, and philosophy. Taken together, they form a powerful case for God and Christianity."

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