What Evidence Have Ye That There Is No God? – Alma 30:40

40 And now what evidence have ye that there is no God, or that Christ cometh not? I say unto you that ye have none, save it be your word only.

(Alma 30:40-41)

Korihor’s argument is twofold:

  1. The people are unhappy (whether they know it or not) because of rules imposed upon them by the church.
  2. The priests maintain the people’s loyalty by making unreasonable claims. (“No man can know of anything which is to come.” “Ye cannot know of things which ye do not see.”)
It’s easy to understand why these arguments would appeal to some people who may have been going through the motions of church membership without being truly converted. He’s telling them, “It’s not your fault you’re unhappy. You are being tricked by the church into doing things you shouldn’t have to do.”
When he appears before the high priest, Korihor lists a number of claims made by the church, and answers them one by one (verses 23-26):

Ye say…
But I say…
The people are free.
They are in bondage.
The scriptures are true.
Ye do not know that they are true.
The people are fallen because of Adam’s transgression.
A child is not guilty because of its parents.
Christ shall come.
You do not know that.
He shall be slain for the sins of the world.

Notice that he doesn’t even respond to that last claim. He leaves it unanswered, as though it isn’t worth his effort.
Up to this point, he has been true to his core message. But in v. 28, he oversteps:

Yea, they durst not make use of that which is their own lest they should…offend some unknown being, who they say is God—a being who never has been seen or known, who never was nor ever will be (Alma 30:28).

Now, how does he know that? If Korihor had been more careful, he might have said something like, “We don’t know whether there is a God.” (Or more modestly: “I don’t know whether there is a God.”) But you don’t win converts by being tentative, and so he overreaches, claiming to know something that he has already told the people they can’t know.
Alma sees the logical flaw, and he points out the unreasonableness of Korihor’s conclusion with an incisive question. “How do you know?” he asks. “What evidence do you have that there is no God? You’re telling us that our claims have no rational basis. Well, what about yours? How can you possibly know that what you’re saying is true?”
Alma goes on to list some of the foundations of his own belief: the magnificence of the universe and the words of the prophets. But he has already exposed the foolishness of Korihor’s position: Korihor is not prepared to face the same scrutiny which he would like to apply to the church. He has no tangible evidence for his position. His words are persuasive not because they are well-reasoned, but simply because they are “pleasing unto the carnal mind” (verse 53).

Today, when I am faced with criticism or ridicule, I will not be intimidated. I will hold on to my convictions. I will remember that it is easier to criticize than to act, and that a sincere declaration of belief is a far higher manifestation of moral courage than is a declaration of doubt. (See Jeffrey R. Holland, “Lord, I Believe.”)
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