Our culture likes to submit God to the scientific method. It seeks to hunch over its collective microscope and demand He show up under magnification. The title of Victor J. Stenger’s book, God the Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist, pretty much sums it up. But Christians must refuse this bit of silliness. Not only must we reject the premise of testing for a non-existent Judeo-Christian-Islamic god, but we must also reject the process of attempting to subject the true God—the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ—to this kind of testing. It’s much better to take the one who swears by Himself, at His word (Heb. 6:13).
First, there is the problem of certainty and confidence. When God becomes a hypothesis, He can never be relied on with certainty. As any scientist knows, a hypothesis can be refuted, but it never can be proven to be true. It is impossible to perform enough experiments to be certain that the answer will always be the same, and the same explanation will hold true every time. When God is treated as a hypothesis, the most certainty you could ever achieve is, “so far, so good.” Hardly the stuff Abraham’s life was made of.
Second, there is the problem of relationality. The god of the hypothesis is necessarily reduced to the god of the vending machine. I put my quarter in, press the button of my expectations, and look for the packaged result to fall into the tray below. Supposing that what our culture tested for would happen, you would not be left with a sovereign God of comforting wrath and terrifying love, but with a relationship with yourself, with nothing to worship or grow into. You would be left staring at yourself in the chrome of the dispenser…no trust…no love…just your pathetic reflection.
And then there is the small problem of inverting all of reality. It’s a potter and clay thing, with testability instead of sovereignty. Who is on what end of the microscope? Who is testing whom? Which one pronounces judgment? “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings” (Jer. 17:10 NKJV). God is not the great hypothesis, but the Great Fact. The I AM. Will the dust speck test the infinite? The fact is, there isn’t a test tube big enough for Him to fit in, and you couldn’t handle it if there was. Just who do we think we are?
It doesn’t ultimately go well for those assume a “neutral” or negative posture when testing God: “We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents,…” (1 Cor. 10:9 ESV cf. Num. 21:6). No doubt some autonomous scientist, having his secret reasons to write this story off as “make believe,” will try to test this statement in the laboratory too. And when he does, if he has the right kind of auditory testing equipment, he will pick up the sound of a hearty laugh (Ps. 37:13; Ps. 2:4). The one who knew no sin was made to be sin for us, and hoisted on a pole. And all the testers who looked to Him were healed (Num. 21:8; 2 Cor. 5:21).
As our culture and situations test us with difficulties, we must not test Him. We must refuse to say that if God were God, then he would do X (X being whatever expectation I happen to set up). We have His promise sealed by the death of His Son—in Abraham’s seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed (Gn. 26:24). And that gives us far more certainty and confidence than any experiment we can muster up.
If you would like to have more of these thoughts unpacked from the command given in Deuteronomy 6:16-19, you can listen to the sermon “Testing God” preached by Kenton Spratt on October 18, 2015 at Christ Church, Spokane.