User:Tsinoyboi/Agnostic theism

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This article a sandbox. For the actual article, see Agnostic theism.

Agnostic theism is the philosophy that encompasses both theism and agnosticism. An agnostic theist is one who disavows knowledge of God's existence but chooses to believe in god(s) in spite of this.

Views of Agnostic theism[edit]

Many views exist depending on how Theism, Agnosticism, Belief, and Knowledge are defined.

Theism as belief in god(s), Agnosticism as don't/can't know[edit]

  • According to Theism, the opinion that gods or deities exist, and Agnosticism is that exsistance unknown or inherently unknowable. Belief defined as a conviction of the truth of a proposition without its verification. Agnosticism does not violate this, and this definition of theism does not violate agnosticism.[1]
  • According to Fideism this logic statement was used:
  • Christian theology teaches that people are saved by faith in the Christian god. (i.e. trust in the empirically unprovable).
  • But, if the Christian God's existence can be proven, either empirically or logically, to that extent faith becomes unnecessary or irrelevant.
  • Therefore, if Christian theology is true, no immediate proof of the Christian God's existence is possible.
This modus tollens follows:
1. Faith is important.
2. If Existence of Christian God can be proven, faith is not important.
3. Existence of Christian God cannot be proven.
see also, Sola fide
  • According to Faith "Faith, by its very nature, requires belief outside of known fact."[1]

Theism as belief, Agnosticism as doubt of god[edit]

Christian Atheism[edit]

A position that would qualify as agnostic theist, is the mechanics of change that are intrinsic to this belief system; or that it is a temporary state of doubt. In short, a theist becomes an agnostic theist when they lose their confidence in the existence of a divinity to some degree but still choose to believe in it. Theists may admit that they experience such doubts that they do not wish to question, in which case they become an agnostic theist. If they experience something that assures them of the existence of some form of divinity, then they will no longer qualify as agnostic theists.

Theism as belief in knowing of god(s), Agnosticism as doubt of god[edit]

What is Agnostic Theism on[edit]

On "What is Agnostic Theism?"[1], the author talks about the perception that agnosticism is more “reasonable” than theism because it eschews theism’s dogmatism being inaccurate, and how atheism and theism deal with belief, agnosticism deals with knowledge. Weak agnosticism is about personally not having knowledge of god, and strong agnosticism is believing that knowledge about god is impossible. Since belief and knowledge are independent, it's possible to be both. Faith contrasts with knowledge, and people believe through faith. Even Christians have to admit they don't know everything about god, especially using the phrase, “God works in mysterious ways.”


  • This position may be seen as a logical fallacy because the agnostic theist is holding a belief, even though he/she is in a state of doubt. In order to believe something, you give a conviction made on knowledge about something you find to be true; in which an agnostic does not do. Additionally, to be in a state of doubt, you make no conviction.
  • This position may also be seen as a paradox, in so far as one knows about a deity but does not believe in that deity, and yet one believes knowledge is unattainable of a deity that one has knowledge of, yet doesn't believe in the knowledge one has of that deity of which one knows.

George H. Smith's rebuttal[edit]

In Atheism: The Case Against God[2] George H. Smith argues that all agnosticism is a form of atheism (defined here as "lacking a belief in a deity"). His argument against agnostic theism is that it is contradictory to state that a being is inherently or currently unknowable, and yet positively assert a belief in its existence. His argument goes:

  • "One cannot possibly know that something exists without some knowledge of what it is that exists."
  • If it is declared unknowable, the concept of "god" becomes meaningless. The agnostic theist's statement of belief therefore becomes equivalent to "a blark exists."
    • This unspecified belief ("I believe in 'something'") is equivalent to nonbelief ("I am not convinced by any particular religious claim"). Therefore the so-called agnostic theist is in fact an atheist (by being unable to assert a positive belief in any specific deity).
    • It ensues that all agnosticism is a form of atheism.
  • If the agnostic theist still wishes to believe, he must ascribe attributes of some sort to the belief. However, they would then be claiming some knowledge of their deity and are therefore no longer agnostics but are theists instead.

Smith concisely describes the paradox on pg 44:

To posit the existence of something which, by its nature, cannot be known to man is to submerge oneself in hopeless contradictions. [...] When one claims that something is unknowable, can one produce knowledge in support of this claim? If one cannot, one's assertion is arbitrary and utterly without merit. If one can, one has accomplished the impossible: one has knowledge of the unknowable. [...] The theist who is called upon to explain the content of his belief - and who then introduces the "unknowable" as a supposed characteristic of the concept itself - is saying, in effect: "I will explain the concept of god by pointing out that it cannot be explained."

Rebuttal to Criticism[edit]

  • According to the Criticism, the position may be seen as a logical fallacy because the agnostic theist is holding a belief, even though he/she is in a state of doubt. This assumes that Agnostic means to doubt, and that belief cannot have doubt. The next sentence describes believing as giving convictions made on knowledge found to be true.

To summarize, these terms were defined:

state of doubt.
the belief in god(s) without any doubt.
conviction made on knowledge about something found to be true.

By contrast, the terms can be defined:

the philosophical view that value certain claims as truth—particularly theological claims regarding the existence of God, gods, or deities—is unknown, inherently unknowable.
the belief in the existence of one or more gods or deities.
a conviction of the truth of a proposition without its verification.
  • As defined by the criticism, the terms are contradictory. The latter definitions of the terms do not contradict. Based on the latter definitions, one can believe in the existence of a god is truth but claim that truth is unknowable; this would not contradict.

Rebuttal to George H. Smith's rebuttal[edit]

In premise 1, Smith seems to assume, in a Cartesian fashion, that regarding an object of knowledge, essence precedes existence, or that essence necessarily accompanies existence.

As illustrated in premise 2, Smith conflates the definition of "know" applying to existence, which agnostic theists hold in doubt, with the definition of "know" applying to essence, which theological noncognitivists hold in doubt. It would follow from this conflation that an agnostic theist holds the same viewpoint as a mere agnostic when it is not so: An agnostic theist merely holds doubt regarding the ability to conclude satisfactorily in the existence of a God who is OOO (Omniscient, Omnibenevolent, and Omnipotent) while believing so and for him/her, belief is not equal to knowledge (concluding in the existence of a thing). This is different from most religious fundamentalists who equate belief with knowledge, and can therefore be called gnostic theists. A mere agnostic considers faith equal to knowledge as well.

Smith's argument completely disregards the distinctions between gnostic/agnostic atheism as well.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c
  2. ^ Smith, George H. Atheism: The Case Against God. Prometheus Books. ISBN 0-87975-124-X. 

External link[edit]