It is no difficult thing to believe that God is real. This is no philosophical achievement. That simple fact is why the whole apologetic enterprise gets a pretty ambivalent, ho-hum review from theology. It is not so much that it is possible to prove God. It is rather that it is impossible to disprove Him.
So the question is not "Is theism tenable?", as if it were possible to ask "Is theos real?" It is not possible to ask this reasonably, in the context of Christian belief. One might as well ask a Christian if he himself exists. If Christianity is true -- which I cannot conceive of it not being true -- then a Christian must -- and I mean must -- look upon the latter statement as a problem stemming from mental illness rather than philosophical inquiry. Given his peculiarly spiritual epistemology, a Christian, after all, is more aware of God's existence than that of his own self. He is aware that his own reality is a corollary of God's.
Moreover, it must be said -- with a nod to St. Dionysios -- that it is really foolish to speak of God existing at all, since God must exhaust all names and categories.
So, if a Christian cannot -- not will not, but can not -- admit the non-existence of God, he must necessarily recognize the question of contemporary atheism as pathological in nature, or -- at the very best -- a question arising from distortions in language.
Thus, the question is not "Is theism tenable?" Rather, the question -- for the Christian who is honest about thinking as a Christian -- is "Is atheism tenable?" In other words, "Do atheists exist?"
It goes without saying that there are many Christians who do not think as Christians. Most of these do so because they do not want to discipline their thinking. This has nothing to do with intelligence or schooling. In fact, the evidence of Christian history suggests that the unschooled Christian has probably done a better job at thinking as a Christian. Because of this "orthodoxy of the unschooled," the perennial movement of the elite academics away from orthodoxy has not had the detrimental effect it might have, had the laity listened to the smart people as much as the smart people thought they should have.
This "perennial movement" of the elitists has been called, very aptly, the "divorce from the laity," and it is chronicled nicely by John Silber.
But there are other Christians who pretend, for a while at least, to not think as Christians. This is the province, of course, of the schooled Christians (many of whom are fairly called "divorcees"), who think it necessary to act the part of a philosopher who is willing to start from the impossible mindset of having no presuppositions. I am not speaking here at all about real apologists … especially those like St. Justin Martyr, John Henry Cardinal Newman, G. K. Chesterton and C. S. Lewis. I am referring here, instead, to Christian scholars and scientists who divide their mind into professional (i.e., “scientific”) thinking, and Christian thinking. They allow their professional thinking to start with the materialistic suppositions provided by their non-Christian peers.
Once again, the question remains – for these professional “scientific” Christians – whether even this sort of “provisional” atheism, let alone the more honest, thorough atheism, is at all possible.
I suggest that while atheism is really not tenable, it is certainly promulgated. The Prophet Isaiah took great pains to show that the idols of his age were not real. Nevertheless, "idolatry" certainly did exist as an opinion. Nevermind the fact that it is sloppy to say that opinions "exist." It is like describing the soap suds in a bathtub as "solid."
So we refine the question further. Instead of asking "Do atheists exist?," perhaps it is better to ask "Just why would they want to?" Exist, that is. What do atheists "get" out of saying something so deeply, so ontologically foolish, so mentally ill? What is the "pay off" for even "going along" with one's peers in the marketplace or the laboratory, supposing an impossible circumstance where God is not real even in the strictures of materalistic measurement?
The real reason why an atheist (or "provisional atheist) does not want to believe in God is not because he positively believes that God does not exist, as this is impossible. Rather it is because he ends up being afraid that He does not. Concomitantly, the atheist perceives a dim, aching awareness that evil is energetically present without essence. He is then compelled by a converse protest -- it is better to discard the entire category of the non-material than to permit the horrific possibility that evil exists, and God does not.
In other words, atheism is opted as a defense against evil. It is better to disbelieve in God, because such provisional atheism is a comfort against the possibility of ghosts.
But there are ghosts and demons. Science, truth be told, is chock full of spooky things -- and such phenomena are not spooky simply because they are not yet fully understood. Some phenomena -- like transcendental numbers -- become spookier the more one knows about them.
It may very well come to pass that scientists will find, if they haven't already, ghosts in their machines. And these ghosts will not be manipulatable, not like rats in a maze. No, these ghosts wil be of the transcendent sort, the kind that react, unseemly, against the very act of measurement. And it will appear, even to the most skeptical sort, just who is in the maze of material, and who is outside.
As progress marches on inexorably, scientists will never prove or disprove God in their laboratory. But they will -- mark this -- deduce the Devil. Evil, as a retrogressive mode of being, is eminently prove-able. And as such, the Beast will undoubtedly be, if he isn't already, a quite onerous ghost of machines built by atheists.
The irony of it all is that the proper response to the fear of evil is to run toward, not deny, the God Who overcomes all death. Evil, like all cancers, cannot be invented away by the sophisticated denials conjured up in the alchemy of atheism.