Saturday, December 04, 2010

Common Objection #15- "If God/Jesus would only appear to me, then I would believe."

Many claim that if Jesus would only appear to them or if God were to perform a miracle for them, then they would believe. I am skeptical of this claim for a few reasons.

Ultimately, I believe that God has provided enough evidence for those who desire to know if He exists or not. As I have heard philosopher J.P. Moreland say:

"God maintains a delicate balance between keeping his existence sufficiently evident so people will know He's there and yet hiding His presence enough so that people who want to choose to ignore Him can do it. This way, their choice of destiny is really free."

I do not believe the problem is the absence of evidence, but the suppression of it. The Bible is very clear that if someone wants to know God, he or she can:

"You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13)

Jesus Himself said:

"If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority" (John 7:17; Emphasis mine).

So, if these verses are true, the unbeliever is without God because he or she isn't sure they want to be with God. 1

This claim also rests on the assumption that the individuals lack of belief stems merely from intellectual objections. However, as Ravi Zacharias puts it:

"A man rejects God neither because of intellectual demands nor because of the scarcity of evidence. A man rejects God because of a moral resistance that refuses to admit his need for God."

It is quite simple, I believe, to sustain this. Imagine what would happen if Jesus decided to personally visit a skeptic who continually claimed, "If God would only appear to me, then I would believe."

Initially, after the visit, the skeptic decides that he believes and begins to follow Jesus. However, after a week, a month, or even a year, he begins to think, "Gee...I wonder if that really happened or maybe it was a dream? Maybe it was a hallucination?" You see, the problem never was intellect; it was the fact that the skeptic never repented and admitted his need for God in the first place. Now, the skeptic finds himself right back where he started- "Okay God, if you appear to me just ONE MORE TIME, I promise to follow you for the rest of my days..." and so the endless circle continues.

Before someone can truly give his or her life to Christ and follow Him, He must first recognize and admit his own depravity.

For a great treatment of the question, "Why Isn't the Evidence Clearer?" by Dr. John Bloom, click here.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Notes

1. I would encourage those who are still investigating the question of biblical authenticity to visit our Old and New Testament Research Materials located here.

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

...if these verses are true, the unbeliever is without God because he or she isn't sure they want to be with God.

This is putting the cart before the horse. It would be foolish of me to want to be with someone who doesn't exist. I first need strong evidence to confirm the existence of this god, and could then decide whether I want to be with him or not. The reverse approach is irrational.

Also, when talking with non-believers, referencing bible verses is pointless - again, getting the cart before the horse. The bible has no authority unless its true. We first need to verify it's truth before accepting scripture as valid.

Initially, after the visit, the skeptic decides that he believes and begins to follow Jesus. However, after a week, a month, or even a year, he begins to think, "Gee...I wonder if that really happened or maybe it was a dream? Maybe it was a hallucination?"

This doesn't resolve the problem. If I want to verify the existence of invisible things like oxygen or gravity, there are ways to do that again and again. I never have to worry that an earlier confirmation was a dream.

Religion requires faith, i.e., belief without evidence. I require strong evidence before believing anything (not just religion). That's a very reasonable and rational expectation.

Chad said...

Hello Anonymous One,

Hello and thank you for taking the time to comment.

It would be foolish of me to want to be with someone who doesn't exist.

I completely agree with you!

The bible has no authority unless its true.

I completely agree again!

We first need to verify it's truth before accepting scripture as valid.

Agreed; however, the person saying it is not true is also making a truth claim that they need to sustain.

Perhaps you should checkout some of our Old and New Testament Research materials located here.

Religion requires faith, i.e., belief without evidence.

This may be your definition of faith; however, it is completely inconsistent with the biblical definition of faith. Please click here.

I require strong evidence before believing anything (not just religion). That's a very reasonable and rational expectation.

As well you should! I would encourage you to continue to explore the evidence for Christianity.

Respectfully

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the response Chad. We have several issues here. Let's tackle one at a time.

"the person saying it is not true is also making a truth claim that they need to sustain."

This response is a common logical fallacy and represents a misunderstanding of skepticism. You're putting words in my mouth when you say, "the person saying it is not true ...." I didn't say "it is not true." Rather, I very clearly said that I need strong evidence before I can believe, i.e., I'm unconvinced. Doubt is a very reasonable position, especially when considering extraordinary claims.

Extraordinary claims (the god hypothesis) requires extraordinary evidence. Yet you're trying to dodge your obligation to provide such evidence by shifting the burden of proof to me. That fails logic 101, i.e., you can't play that card. To see why, consider this example.

Imagine that I'm trying to convince you that I have a pair of anti-gravity boots that allow me to levitate at will. Do you believe me? Without strong evidence, I sure hope not. Rather, you would very reasonably respond, "Prove it!" Now imagine that I answer back, "You're saying that I don't have anti-gravity boots, so you're also making a truth claim that you need to sustain."

Do you see the problem with this line of reasoning? How exactly are you going to prove that I don't have anti-gravity boots? Do you really think that expectation is reasonable?

Quintessential said...

I just had a discussion with a friend of mine who brought up this question. Ironically, he rejected every example of God revealing Himself, without a second thought. Later, he prided himself with the notion of being unbiased in his research.

By the way Mr. Anonymous, most Christians do not hang their hat on one particular issue. The Christian thinkers that I am familiar with look to the accumulative evidence.

Brazen Hussey's said...

Thank you for the Good News and defense of the faith in charity. It is a current frustration of mine to note:

1) How divisive the truth is by nature demands charity on our part, yet we tend to (I tend to) forget that pesky 13th ch. of I Corinthians...

2) How many people, usually divided on various pet doctrines such as sovereign grace, etc., pretend to be engaged in "iron sharpens iron" but really just want to watch the sparks fly.

This post reminds me of so many conversations I've had in the past, with people looking NOT for a reason TO believe, but for every excuse NOT to.

And I understand the tension: if God exists, you must get right with Him on His terms: receive, truth and follow His Son, Jesus Christ. Repent of your rebellion, and join the body of Christ.

Well-written post, I love the tone. I'm working on that on my end...

Chad said...

Hello Anonymous,

Thank you for getting back to me! I completely understand your point and fear that in an effort to be brief and to the point, I left out some context that is sorely needed in this post. I appreciate you pointing it out!

I agree we have much going on here and my hope in this reply is to clarify my position.

"the person saying it is not true is also making a truth claim that they need to sustain."

This particular post is an outworking of a conversation I had with a one-time skeptic a few years ago who already believed the Bible held some validity, but wanted to know for sure.

In other words, he had already investigated the reliability of the Bible and found it to be satisfying. However, you could not have know that. I plan to adjust the post accordingly. Thank you for the opportunity to improve it!

Further, what I was driving at, and failed to clearly communicate, is that if the believer has good reasons to believe the Bible is true and then shares them with the unbeliever, and the unbeliever believes the Bible is false, he or she should be able to sustain their position as well. I believe you and I completely agree here.

I very clearly said that I need strong evidence before I can believe, i.e., I'm unconvinced.

I understand this and your illustration perfectly. I apologize for not considering your position carefully before replying! Darn cold medicine!

Doubt is a very reasonable position, especially when considering extraordinary claims… Extraordinary claims (the god hypothesis) requires extraordinary evidence.

I know, I know; Carl Sagan told me so! :-) Many able men have challenged this much repeated statement; Click here for an example however, I would like to ask you what this extraordinary evidence would look like?

Yet you're trying to dodge your obligation to provide such evidence by shifting the burden of proof to me.

No, no, this was not my intent. Please note that I did provided research materials when you expressed your skepticism and that the focus of this blog is to provide “evidence” for the Christian faith! Finally, I hope my clarification above clears up any misunderstandings caused by my lack of precision.

Thank you for the cordial interaction.

Respectfully

Chad said...

Hello Quintessential,

Welcome to Truthbomb! Thank you for commenting.

You are correct. The Cumulative Case is of much value!

Godspeed

Chad said...

Hello Brazen,

Thank you for visiting Truthbomb and for the encouragement!

Godspeed

Chad said...

Anonymous,

Please note that I did provided research materials

Please note that this should have said, "I did provide..."

My apologies

Anonymous said...

That has to be the most reasonable and coherent response that I’ve ever received from a Christian apologist – kudos!

The cited article has some serious problems however. Without going into a lot of detail, I’ll touch on just one for now.

As noted in the article, Christians presuppose that their god exists, which requires a huge leap of faith. Logically I have no obligation to accept any presupposition. The author then claims that atheists are making unreasonable evidential demands because they presuppose “that there is no god.” That's a bizarre statement.

I’m not aware of a supernatural realm, which is not an atheist presupposition -- it hasn't been proven. We both agree that there is a natural world, i.e., I’m not making a giant assumption to draw that conclusion. If a supernatural realm exists, then believers have the burden to prove its existence. To better understand this, imagine a Muslim using the same argument against you, i.e., “You’re presupposing that Allah doesn’t exist.” Are you then required to lower your evidential requirements, or would you still require extraordinary evidence before switching gods? That argument flies in the face of logic.

You asked me to clarify what extraordinary evidence would look like. Well I’d sure be impressed if prayer could re-generate limbs in amputees (some animals have the biological ability to do this). I have to believe that Christian amputees and their loved ones have done their share of praying. The re-generation of human limbs would be truly extraordinary, because it defies everything we know about human physiology. Also, it’s also an objective outcome that could be independently verified and replicated.

Perhaps you could comment on why prayer doesn’t work for amputees, i.e., situations that can be objectively verified and replicated.

Jason Bishara said...

Hey Chad,

Seeing how this is one of my biggest objections I felt I should add my own thoughts to the discussion! As usual there far too long,lol sorry mate, too much free time!!!

First off, the very fact you quote J P Moreland to inform us why God chooses “a delicate balance between keeping his existence sufficiently evident so people will know He's there and yet hiding His presence enough so that people who want to choose to ignore Him can do it.” Is part of the problem for me. I’m so tired of other human beings, who have access to the same sources of information I have, yet seem quite content to tell me why God does this or that. There are enough competing religions and denominations of Christianity out there to know that majority of us must be getting God’s instructions wrong. If God wants to tell me something I’m all ears, but when another one of my fellow limited, finite human brothers or sisters tries to explain to me the mind of an infinite, limitless God I just have to laugh!

This way, their choice of destiny is really free.

God could reveal himself to us in a more practical, physical way and our choice of destiny would still be a completely free choice. I’m quite sure of my father’s existence, when he asks me to do things I still have the free will to ignore him or listen to him. But he loves me, makes a lot of sense and has much more experience than me, so I tend to hear the old fella out... most of the time haha.

So, if these verses are true, the unbeliever is without God because he or she isn't sure they want to be with God.

Instead of resting your assumptions with the bibles description of why we “non believers” struggle to come to the same conclusions you do, you could just ask us? Not everyone is the same, people believe and disbelieve for a myriad of different reasons.

Jason Bishara said...

"A man rejects God neither because of intellectual demands nor because of the scarcity of evidence. A man rejects God because of a moral resistance that refuses to admit his need for God."

If you’re going to make the claim people reject God because of emotional and moral reasons, then I think the same can be said for why people accept God. We are, after all, talking about a belief system that offers its followers an eternity of happiness and joy, along with being reunited with family and friends in paradise. That’s a pretty good deal that appeals directly to one of our biggest fears, not to mention the alternative to believing is an eternity of punishment in a forever burning pit of fire. I agree with you, the idea that we have all arrived at our beliefs through a journey of intellectually honest reasoning and following the evidence is ridiculous. Our psychological and emotional needs play enormous roles in determining our beliefs. But we should steer well clear of making the mistake of thinking somehow were free from this, none of us are. Not you, not me not anyone reading this. I’m not saying you think this, just raising what I think is an important point.

I don’t think everyone rejects God because of self righteous moral reasons. Certainly some do, but I think to cast everyone in this boat is not fair. Whether you believe me or not, my unbelief isn’t a result of some moral battle between my “unrighteous” behaviour and Gods commandments. I was a Christian for a number of years, and lived a very happy content life, as I do now. In some ways I still hold Jesus as one of the greatest examples of how I believe we should treat our fellow man. I would love for him to be my saviour and know that I will spend eternity with him and the rest of my family in heaven. But I just began to find this position, whilst immensely comforting, somewhat intellectually dishonest, like I believed because I wanted too, not necessarily because it was the truth. Truth became a bigger concept than my “beliefs”. So now I just prefer to withhold belief until something a little more solid comes along outside the comforting notion of faith.

I find your scenario with the sceptic a little pretentious. How could you possibly know that would happen? What about the apostle Paul? He hated Christians; it would have been in his best interest as a Jew to shake off his “encounter” with Jesus as a dream or hallucination. Yet it supposedly transformed his life. I only ask for the same life changing experience, is that really so wrong? Imagine if Jesus appeared to all of us! How could we possible construe that as being a dream? Or God could reveal to us something so specific in the future only God could know. He does stuff like that all the time throughout the bible. Until I receive my own subjective experience I’m forced to remain sceptical. I wish God would give me an experience, I couldn’t think of anything cooler :)

Love your work mate, generating great discussions :)

Keep it up!

Always in love and civility

Jase

Chad said...

Hello Anonymous,

Thank you for the reply and the kudos!

If you don't mind, I would like to ask a few questions to make sure I am understanding your position correctly.

1. Am I correct in asserting that you require God to manifest Himself in a strict, empirical manner?

2. Perhaps you could comment on why prayer doesn’t work for amputees, i.e., situations that can be objectively verified and replicated.

I would be glad to; however, first I would like ask you if you claim to know for a fact that God has never healed an amputee? Second, do you believe that God is required to heal everyone?

Again, thank you for the cordial discussion and please know that these questions are sincere. I am simply trying to clarify your position before commenting further.

Respectfully

Chad said...

Hello Jason,

Thank you for commenting. To be quite honest, I feel as though you are "stacking the deck" against me here. Entire books have been written about some of the topics that you have addressed! :-)

Please understand that my goal in the comments is to address the "core issues" and the main topic addressed in the post as much as possible. Topics that come up in the comments are sometimes addressed later in other posts.

Truth became a bigger concept than my “beliefs”.

Interesting; I can honestly say the same for myself and this is why I am a follower of Jesus. If I didn't sincerely believe it was true, I certainly wouldn't embrace it and teach it to my children!

Jason, I appreciate you sharing a bit about yourself; however, as I read your comments [not just the ones above, but others] am I correct in asserting that your case against God could be summed up as follows:

1. If God existed, he would "X."
2. God does not "X."
3. Therefore, I can't be sure God exists.

Am I correct?

Thank you for the kind interaction and I enjoy your blog.

Respectfully

Brian Auten said...

Thanks for writing this post, Chad.

I think arguments like the one you mention - "If God would only...x, then I would believe" are problematic at the core. It shifts the responsibility back on God to somehow prove himself to the person -- telling God to do something He doesn't promise to do. As if someone can just 'wash their hands' of their own responsibility in the matter because God didn't grant their wishes.

If the person is willing to put their trust in the God of the Bible (should He exist), then they should look at what the Bible is saying about how one should go about seeking Him - not imposing their conditions on Him to prove Himself to their satisfaction.

Anonymous said...

Hello Chad – good questions.

Am I correct in asserting that you require God to manifest Himself in a strict, empirical manner?

Since an omnipotent being can do anything, then it’s necessarily true that he could convince me without strict empircal evidence. But, your god isn’t talking to me -- you are. So are Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, etc. etc. The disciplines of science and philosophy have clearly demonstrated that all humans (myself included) are prone to significant errors in reasoning and belief.

So yes, in order for you, a fallible human, to convince me that your beliefs are correct, I require strong empircal evidence. Given the thousands of human-invented gods that neither of us believe to exist, that’s a very reasonable expectation. If your god ever decides to reveal himself, then I won’t need convincing – I’ll know he exists and will then have the choice to follow him or not.

Incidentally, as an adult I read the entire Bible cover-to-cover (KJV). I didn’t find it even remotely convincing – just the opposite.

I would like ask you if you claim to know for a fact that God has never healed an amputee?

There’s no possible way I could know that, though I’m quite sure that there are no recorded instances in modern medical literature. If that were to happen, even just once, the news media and numerous scientific disciplines would explode in a frenzy of excitement, and religious leaders from all faiths would be clamoring to claim that their god(s) did it. Sadly, the medical literature is quiet.

Do you believe that God is required to heal everyone?

Nope. Though as previously noted; I’d sure be very impressed if some contemporary amputees were healed. Conversely, I’m not impressed by old unverifiable stories – a feature common to all religions. Remember, we’re talking about extraordinary evidence, not references to an old story book and subjective rationalization.

Does that sufficiently clarify my last post? I’d love to hear your thoughts about heavenly discrimination against amputees.

Chad said...

Hello Anonymous,

You have brought up many great points and questions that are very answerable. However, something you wrote in your last comment intrigued me:

If your god ever decides to reveal himself, then I won’t need convincing – I’ll know he exists and will then have the choice to follow him or not.

Let me ask you a question- If the Christian God revealed Himself to you, would you follow Him?

Respectfully

Anonymous said...

If the Christian God revealed Himself to you, would you follow Him?

I would have to be insane to willingly march off to an eternity in the flames of hell (where a trillion trillion years is just the beginning). So yes, if I knew that the Christian god exists, I would submit to his threats of torture and do what was required of me.

Let's not get off topic though. I would appreciate a response to our discussion about amputees.

Brian Auten said...

It seems to me that arguments along the line of:

1. If God existed he would X.
2. God doesn't do X.
3. Therefore, God does not exist.

... these are dreadfully dubious.

The person making this claim must prove the truth of both premises 1 and 2!
We need some reason to belive that if God exists then he must necessarily heal amputees on demand. Do we have any scriptural data promising this?
Do we have any support for premise 2 besides, "I haven't seen or heard it happen" or "if it did happen we would have certainly heard about it."?

This argument is getting old. Why not get back on topic and talk about what evidence we do have for God's existence and what the Bible does say about seeking Him?

If we get back to the quote by Moreland, he is saying that overwhelming evidence is exactly what God may indeed have reasons not to give because these sorts of things would force belief -- and what God is looking for are people who have a willingness to put trust in Him, not those who are forced to do so.

Anonymous, you seem to be saying that you would trust in God if your belief was forced, so to speak. But what if there is sufficient evidence to warrant trust, but not overwhelming evidence to force or coerce belief. That sounds pretty reasonable for a God who seeks to woo us to a relationship with him that is based upon his mercy, grace, and love.

Chad said...

Hello Anonymous,

So yes, in order for you, a fallible human, to convince me that your beliefs are correct, I require strong empircal evidence.

I fear this is a wrong-headed approach. There are several non-empirical things that exist that we are unable to see such as ethical judgments, the laws of logic, theories (mental entities in people’s minds) and so forth. My own feelings and thoughts are not known by using my senses. One cannot see a feeling or thought These things are understood by first person introspection- not our five senses.

I realize that you understand this; however, I would just encourage to not put all your eggs in one basket.

That being said, don’t misunderstand me.  I believe we have a good cumulative case for the existence of God; however, all truths do not require strict, empirical evidence.

There’s no possible way I could know that, though I’m quite sure that there are no recorded instances in modern medical literature.

So, we both agree then that God could have, at some point in the past, healed an amputee, correct?  At least, it’s logically possible if He exists?

Remember, we’re talking about extraordinary evidence

Yes; you continue to bring this up; however, if I am honest with you, I think this mantra is overused and of very little worth.  Who decides what “extraordinary” evidence is? The subjective nature of this claim allows the one making it to constantly move the goal post to where he or she is comfortable.  It sounds good, but, in my mind, holds very little objective value. Examining the available data, regardless of what the topic of study, and being willing to follow that evidence wherever it leads, seems like the most balance approach to me.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about heavenly discrimination against amputees.

I am surprised at how potent skeptics believe this argument to be. 

First off, an amputee being healed certainly could count as evidence for the existence of God; however, it is not necessary evidence for the existence of God.

Second, God may have, sometime in history, healed an amputee.

Finally, even if we assume that God does not heal amputees, it still does not follow that He doesn’t exist. He could very well have a reason, as Brian Auten pointed out, for not healing amputees that we are not aware of.

I simply don’t find this argument even remotely compelling.

Respectfully

Anonymous said...

Brian said...

1. If God existed he would X.
2. God doesn't do X.
3. Therefore, God does not exist.

The person making this claim must prove the truth of both premises 1 and 2!


Hey Brian,

That’s not a valid argument. Let’s start with Premise #1. Prayer-induced miracles are a Christian claim – not mine. Remember that Chad asked me for an “example” of something that would constitute extraordinary evidence. There are an infinite number of possible prayer-induced miracles that could be independently and objectively verified beyond a reasonable doubt. I suggested limb re-generation, which seems quite problematic. I didn’t say anything about results on demand, i.e., repetition could be satisfied by statistical sampling.

Your insistence that I prove the truth of premise #1 is unfounded (it’s a Christian claim).

As for Premise #2, it’s reasonable for me to ask why these miracles supposedly correct some physical deformities, but not ones that can be objectively validated. You can’t shift the burden of proof to me because I’m asking for strong evidence – logic doesn’t work that way.

…overwhelming evidence is exactly what God may indeed have reasons not to give because these sorts of things would force belief …

This is a good example of rationalization and special pleading. If we apply this approach to other belief systems, we could be tricked into believing in Allah, Mormonism, extraterrestrial visitation, etc. etc.

You’re welcome to rationalize your lack of strong evidence however you like, but you can’t rationally expect other people to agree with your unsupported speculation.

Anonymous said...

Hey Chad,

There are several non-empirical things that exist that we are unable to see...

This is a bizarre comparison. We know that we make ethical judgments, we clearly have rules for the study of arguments (logic), and we know that humans can think. We don’t understand how all these mechanisms work, but their reality is not in question.

I believe we have a good cumulative case for the existence of God; however, all truths do not require strict, empirical evidence.

You're essentially trying to make a cup of strong coffee from many cups of weak coffee -- it doesn’t work that way. People compile loads of weak evidence all the time, and create untrue narratives that others find compelling. In addition to other religions, conspiracy theories are a wonderful example. It’s a great way to be misled if you’re not careful. I prefer to be careful.

So, we both agree then that God could have, at some point in the past, healed an amputee, correct? At least, it’s logically possible if He exists?

Sure. It’s also logically possible that the center of the moon is made of green cheese (logic allows for a wide breadth of possibilities). Pointing out that something is logically possible is rather pointless.

Who decides what “extraordinary” evidence is?

I provided a clear cut example that would really be impressive – yet you dismissed it. If prayer-induced miracles happen, then we should see more than one isolated incident. Over time, objectively verified examples would build a powerful case.

You have to remember that as an atheist, I’m faced with an enormous number of belief systems, all with their own pre-suppositions and weak evidence. Your claims are not special and they don’t have superior evidential support.

It seems that we’ve reached an impasse. My understanding of logic, reason, and science won’t allow me to make a giant leap of faith -- for any belief or belief system.

Best wishes.

Brian Auten said...

Anonymous,

It's not a valid argument? Then you admit that your argument is fallacious?
This is your argument, not mine!

But it IS valid. Logical validity means that if the premises are true, then the conclusion must be true. And it is logically valid. (modus tollens) And this is the logical argument of "God doesn't heal amputees." If you have a different argument you are making, please let me know.

Prayer-induced miracles are a Christian claim – not mine
The Christian claim is that God may answer our prayers - but he is not obligated to do so, especially on demand, I would say. And in the case of doing something to prove himself to the hard-hearted even less so. There are many examples in scripture where Jesus refused to do wonders and signs on demand - and there are other places in scripture when miracles were performed and the hard-hearted still did not believe.

Therefore, it is up to the skeptic making the claim that "if God exists, he would do X" to substantiate this claim.

This is a good example of rationalization and special pleading
The fact that other religions could use this is evidence supporting my claim, it seems to me. The reason is simple: if God exists, He may well have reasons for not doing things "on demand" -- just as I mentioned above, Jesus refused to do miracles on demand for the hard-hearted. You said it yourself, that if God did these things then you would have no choice but to believe in him -- and then you mention that you would just be doing it to avoid hell - and not based on a willing desire to be reconciled to a right relationship with a merciful God who offers free grace and forgiveness for those who are guilty.

Chad said...

Hello Anonymous,

Thank you again for the interaction.

The point I was attempting to make is that demanding strict, empirical data seems limiting to me.  There exists legit sciences such as archeology, forensics, and cryptography that study effects to reason back to a cause or causes.  Why not at least consider a Creator as a possibility in our pool of options when observing the effects around us?  

Furthermore, strict empiricism is self-defeating; for one cannot verify the statement, "Only strict, empirical evidence is valid," scientifically.

Pointing out that something is logically possible is rather pointless.

My point in stating that amputees could have been healed was simply to highlight the fact that if this is so, you cannot claim that there haven't been healings.  You are assuming there haven't been because you haven't personally witnessed one. Perhaps Dr. Moreland is correct when he says:

"God maintains a delicate balance between keeping his existence sufficiently evident so people will know He's there and yet hiding His presence enough so that people who want to choose to ignore Him can do it. This way, their choice of destiny is really free."

It seems worth considering and not dismissing a priori.

Your claims are not special

Have you consider the Uniqueness of Jesus Christ

My understanding of logic, reason, and science won’t allow me to make a giant leap of faith -- for any belief or belief system.

No one is asking you, nor has it even been implied, that you should take "a giant leap of faith."  On the contrary, assuming you read the brief link I originally provided on the biblical definition of faith, I encouraged you to consider the evidence we do have instead of focusing on the evidence you seem to assert we should have.  Respectfully, I think that if you are going to reject the biblical concept of faith you should at least strive to understand it first.  

Finally, I would encourage you to at least consider the lives of those men and women, past and present, who's knowledge of logic, reason, and science have led them to embrace faith in a Creator that loves them.  

It is my conviction that He loves you as well.  

Respectfully
 

Anonymous said...

Thank you Brian and Chad for the responses. Rather than continuing to go in circles, I’d like to shift gears. We know that as humans we’re all imperfect, i.e., prone to error. That means we’re also prone to errors in our beliefs, i.e., we’re not infallible.

Let me ask you this. Given our innate falliblity, if you were wrong about your beliefs, would you sincerely want to know? If yes, then I’d be curious to hear how to reconcile the following.

Let’s consider why there are 1.4 billions Muslims in the world, who we agree are grossly mistaken:

* Most Muslims children were indoctrinated to believe in Allah long before they were old enough to think for themselves, i.e., they don’t decide to become Muslim -- this decision is made for them.

* As humans we’re all prone to numerous cognitive deficiencies, e.g., Confirmation Bias unfairly strengthens existing beliefs (including indoctrinated beliefs) and Cognitive Dissonance compels us to protect our deeply held beliefs, even in the face of strong contradictory evidence. Like all people, as Muslims go through life, they notice things that confirm their beliefs, ignore things that don’t, and resist, re-define, and/or ignore conflicting evidence.

* Belief in Allah is grounded in pre-suppositions (faith) that their god is real. Through Confirmation Bias and Cognitive Dissonance, they convince themselves that they have strong evidence to support their faith. As a result, their conviction is as strong as believers of any other religion.

If we look to non-Christian belief systems, we can easily see why so many people are have such misguided beliefs. Now re-read this list and change the word Muslim to Christian.

So, do you honestly recognize your own fallibility and acknowledge that you might be mistaken? If that were the case, would you sincerely want to know? If you want to turn this question back on me, I’d be happy to answer it, but I’d appreciate hearing your response first.

Chad V. said...

Here is a case where a man came to realize his own fallibility and admitted he was mistaken:

"Back in the 1960s, we were told that religion was fading
away, to be replaced by a secular world. For some of us
that sounded like a great thing. I was an atheist back
in the late 1960s, and remember looking forward to the
demise of religion with a certain grim pleasure. I had
grown up in Northern Ireland, and had known religious
tensions and violence at first hand. . . . The future was
bright and godless. . . . I started out as an atheist, who
went on to become a Christian. I had originally intended
to spend my life in scientific research, but found that my
discovery of Christianity led me to study its history and
ideas in greater depth. I gained my doctorate in molecular
biophysics while working in the Oxford laboratories
of Sir George Radda, but then gave up active scientific
research to study theology."

Alister McGrath

Anonymous said...

Hey Chad,

You didn't answer my questions. I was inquiring about your views on fallibility and the pursuit of truth. Your response is an anecdote about someone else, i.e., a story. I could cite anecdotes from the atheist perspective, but cherry picking anecdotes won't get us anywhere.

In the context of my last post, here are my questions again.

1) Do you honestly recognize your own fallibility and acknowledge that you might be mistaken?

2) If the truth were different, would you sincerely want to know?

Chad said...

Anonymous,

Chad V. is not me. I haven't had a chance to address your questions yet.

I will as soon as time allows.

Respectfully

Brian Auten said...

Hi there, Anonymous,

Rather than continuing to go in circles, I’d like to shift gears.

I think it is usually best to stay on the point and make progress than hop all around. Earlier you said, "Let's not get off topic though. I would appreciate a response to our discussion about amputees." -- we go on to discuss amputees (which is OFF topic) and then you want to switch to something else. ?? To quote you again, "We have several issues here. Let's tackle one at a time."

So, do you honestly recognize your own fallibility and acknowledge that you might be mistaken?
Yes.
If that were the case, would you sincerely want to know?
Yes.

Now re-read this list and change the word Muslim to Christian.
Switch it to anything you want to switch it to... switch it to atheism as well. No one is exempt from the possible influence of indoctrination, human fallibility, cognitive dissonance, and the like.

Chad said...

Hello Anonymous One,

Do you honestly recognize your own fallibility and acknowledge that you might be mistaken?

Yes.

If the truth were different, would you sincerely want to know?

Of course. Who would want to base their life on a lie?

Rather than continuing to go in circles, I’d like to shift gears.

I was answering your questions and points.

Now re-read this list and change the word Muslim to Christian.

I don't see what this has to do with whether or not Islam, Christianity, or atheism, etc. give us an accurate way of viewing the reality we find ourselves in.

Respectfully

Anonymous said...

Hey Brian,

The reason I said that the argument is invalid is because you’ve created an argument that I didn’t make, and then stated that I’m required to prove your premises. Here’s what I’ve been arguing:

#1 – Christians claim that their god performs prayer-induced miracles that violate the natural order

#2 – Christians have not presented strong evidence to support these claims (amputee healing is one way we could verify premise #1)

Therefore, it’s reasonable for me to remain skeptical about prayer-induced miracles.

I’ve been clear about this and do not have a burden of proof, simply for being skeptical. Additionally, you again said that I’m requiring evidence on demand. I never said this. Please re-read my previous reply for clarification.

Thank you for your responses about fallibility and the pursuit of truth. I’ll consider Chad’s response too when writing my reply.

Anonymous said...

Brian and Chad,

It is a mistake to think that we can equally apply my atheism to the Muslim/Christian example. Yes we all have cognitive deficiencies, but in relation to religious belief, the effect is not equal. Here’s why.

1) If you’re like most Christians, your god belief was deeply ingrained as a child. I come from a very religious family and believed in your god for 30 years before changing my mind.

2) You’ve had a lifetime to strengthen and reinforce your Christian beliefs via the Confirmation Bias. It could be argued that I’ve been influenced too since becoming an atheist, but the timeframe is much shorter, meaning the effect is probably much less.

3) You’re demonstrating what appear to be strong effects from cognitive dissonance. For example, as noted in the article that Chad recommend, you pre-suppose (have faith) that your god exists, which is logically invalid. Also, because you don’t have strong evidence, you rationalize that having lots of weak evidence is the same thing. Conversely, I’m not rationalizing an emotionally held belief -- I lack belief.

4) This is an apologist site, which by definition focuses on defending belief (which nicely compliments our natural propensity for cognitive dissonance), rather than pursuing truth . You have really strong religious beliefs to defend – I don’t because I maintain an agnostic stance, i.e., I'll believe the evidence when I see it.

5) Finally, it would be much easier for me to adopt a new belief than for you to abandon your deeply held emotional beliefs. Human brains are belief engines, and we naturally resist abandoning strong beliefs, religious or otherwise.

Therefore, we can’t simply apply atheism to the Muslim example and say it’s the same thing. If strong evidence were presented to support some religion, I would be deeply curious to study it closely to see if my views need to change again.

So, let me ask you this. Given that like all humans, you believe that most of humanity has it wrong and you have it right, what would it take to change your mind?

Chad said...

Anonymous One,

I must say that I am disappointed that you are attempting this type of weak argument. For those interested, I have already addressed this type of argument on Truthbomb here.

If you’re like most Christians, your god belief was deeply ingrained as a child.

I’m not. I didn’t become a Christian until age 25. However, even if I had been indoctrinated as a child, this says nothing about the truth or falsehood of Christianity and it’s truth claims.

It seems that you are guilty of committing the genetic fallacy- meaning, you are rejecting what I believe based upon the supposed, but incorrect, origin of my beliefs, thus avoiding having to deal with the merits of the belief itself.

You’re demonstrating what appear to be strong effects from cognitive dissonance. For example, as noted in the article that Chad recommend, you pre-suppose (have faith) that your god exists, which is logically invalid.

Anonymous, I recommended that article, by another author, because it offered another viewpoint on the often repeated Carl Sagan mantra. I am not a pre-suppositional apologist. I do not pre-suppose the existence of God. You will find evidence of this on my blog and those who read the blog and have sat under my teaching can attest to the fact that I start from the question, “Does truth exist?” and work from the ground up.

I didn’t know that if I recommended an article by another author that it automatically followed that I agree with everything he wrote. I’ve read a few decent Sam Harris pieces, but that doesn’t mean I agree with everything he writes!

You have really strong religious beliefs to defend – I don’t because I maintain an agnostic stance, i.e., I'll believe the evidence when I see it.

I see this statement as nothing more than a dodge. This type of statement really says nothing and allows the person to avoid actually addressing the evidence and arguments.

Moreover, everyone brings their biases to the table. This is why philosophers and historians have developed methods in which one can strive to detach themselves from their biases in order to be as objective as possible. Anonymous, you have biases, I have biases, the question is: whose biases are the correct ones to have?

Just because we all have our biases, doesn't mean we still can't strive to be as objective as possible.

it would be much easier for me to adopt a new belief than for you to abandon your deeply held emotional beliefs.

How can you claim to know the nature of my beliefs?
Further, even if you could prove your claim, it says NOTHING about the truth or falsehood of Christianity’s truth claims.

what would it take to change your mind?

I’ve actually given this question much thought in the past. I would have to see how another worldview addresses the human predicament and explains the reality I find myself in better than Christianity.

Respectfully

Anonymous said...

Hey Chad,

I’m not claiming that this argument proves the falsity of your claim, though it does highlight some very troubling problems that should warrant further examination. I was responding to Brian’s dismissal of my previous post, i.e., apply it to atheists and you get the same results. This is not an apples-to-apples comparison.

A key point of my argument was that we are highly fallible (much more than more people realize). Therefore, we should be highly skeptical of all truth claims and carefully protect our minds with high standards for logic and evidence. You seem to be asking me to lower my standards and be less careful.

As for pre-suppositionalism, that argument was central to the article that you recommended, so I assumed that was your position. Even so, faith (belief without strong evidence) is essentially a presupposition. If your evidence was strong, you (and the Bible) would not need the concept of faith, i.e., you would instead be touting your extraordinary evidence.

So no, my post doesn’t disprove your claims. But it does offer a compelling explanation as to why someone might value the logically untenable concept of faith and maintain belief that is significantly disproportionate to the strength of the evidence.

I’ve actually given this question much thought in the past. I would have to see how another worldview addresses the human predicament and explains the reality I find myself in better than Christianity.

This Chad, is not an answer. To be intellectually honest with yourself, you should be willing to set a goal post to measure against. Otherwise, as often happens, goal posts keep moving. You’re essentially saying its possible, without offering any concrete markers.

Scientific theories, for example, have to falsifiable, at least in theory. So the question is, what would it take to shake what seems to be an unshakable certainty?

Brian Auten said...

Anonymous,

As fascinating as it might be to explore the why's of belief, whether from theistic or atheistic perspectives - it doesn't really help us here.

What helps is looking at the evidence we have that a certain state of affairs is actually true in the world.

If you’re like most Christians, your god belief was deeply ingrained as a child. I come from a very religious family and believed in your god for 30 years before changing my mind.

And there are lots of Christians, as Chad noted, that come to Christian faith later in life, even after being an atheist for 30-some years. See this interview here.

You’ve had a lifetime to strengthen and reinforce your Christian beliefs via the Confirmation Bias. It could be argued that I’ve been influenced too since becoming an atheist, but the timeframe is much shorter, meaning the effect is probably much less

Confirmation bias works both ways. As another note, why do you think that I have always "wanted" Christianity to be true. If I had good reasons to believe Christianity was false, I would drop it. But the question of truth can't be settled by comparing biases. That is where evidence and good arguments come in -- an area which I think Christianity is strong in and atheism is very weak in.

This is an apologist site, which by definition focuses on defending belief (which nicely compliments our natural propensity for cognitive dissonance), rather than pursuing truth .

Give me a break. By that logic we can't trust any source unless it doesn't believe what it is communicating! Should I write off your arguments because they come from a non-believer, and so, naturally, focus on defending unbelief? Why not look at positive arguments instead of psycho-anaylzing belief?

Anonymous said...

Hey Brian,

As you and Chad noted, there are exceptions to Christian childhood indoctrination, but that’s all they are – exceptions! Why are most children born to Muslim parents in Muslims countries so certain of their incorrect worldview? Because of indoctrination, Confirmation Bias, Cognitive Dissonance, etc. Can you do the same thing and get an atheist? Absolutely.

Why not look at positive arguments instead of psycho-anaylzing belief?

As I’ve pointed out, our cognitive deficiencies are powerful influences that cause the vast majority of people on this planet to form an incorrect worldview (this statement is true even if the Christian worldview is accurate). It is a mistake to brush off this point as meaningless.

This is not, as you put it, psycho-analyzing, but rather, it offers a significant insight supported by strong evidence from the cognitive sciences. Further, it would be a mistake to focus on just positive arguments as you suggested. That’s like saying that a criminal court should only focus on one side of the debate.

I said: This is an apologist site, which by definition focuses on defending belief … rather than pursuing truth .

You said: By that logic we can't trust any source unless it doesn't believe what it is communicating!

I’m not sure what you mean by this, but I think you’re missing my point. Someone who is primarily focused on the defense of existing belief is necessarily not embracing the philosophical truth seeking principle, suggesting a closed mind. It’s easy to defend and protect existing belief, which we all do naturally. If you instead hold your beliefs tentatively (proportioning them to the strength of the evidence) and genuinely follow the evidence, wherever it leads, then you have a better chance of forming accurate beliefs.

Chad said...

Hello Anonymous One,

I have appreciated the cordial and respectful discussion.

It is unfortunate that your apparent biases against those who believe in God hinder you from actually considering the answers you have been given. It is clear that you have a very neat little box that all “religious people” must fit in, even when they demonstrate that they are different from what you pre-suppose. Perhaps in the future you will be able to overcome your biases and actually address the arguments and evidence therein.

Am I the only one who sees the irony in the fact that you have a bias against "religious people" that they are all bias?

Therefore, we should be highly skeptical of all truth claims and carefully protect our minds with high standards for logic and evidence.

With all do respect, a genetic fallacy hardly qualifies as “high standards for logic.” Further, we haven’t even gotten to discuss the actual evidence for Christianity because I have been attempting to address the numerous misconceptions you continue to put forth despite being corrected. [see below]

You seem to be asking me to lower my standards and be less careful.

I will leave it up to our readers to determine whether or not I asked you to “lower your standards and be less careful.”

Even so, faith (belief without strong evidence) is essentially a presupposition. If your evidence was strong, you (and the Bible) would not need the concept of faith, i.e., you would instead be touting your extraordinary evidence.

Here you demonstrate your unwillingness to consider the actual biblical definition of faith that I have highlighted here. Again, attacking a straw-man doesn’t seem to be consistent with your “high standards for logic.” My faith is not belief without strong evidence. You are doing nothing more here than attacking a position I do not hold. This may be YOUR definition of faith, but it is not the biblical one.

But it does offer a compelling explanation as to why someone might value the logically untenable concept of faith and maintain belief that is significantly disproportionate to the strength of the evidence.

Honestly, this is the first time I have ever had anyone claim that a genetic fallacy is a “compelling explanation.”

This Chad, is not an answer.

It’s called inference to the best explanation.

So the question is, what would it take to shake what seems to be an unshakable certainty?

I would have to be convinced that there is a better explanation for the origin of the universe (Why is there something rather than nothing?), the design in the universe, the moral law within, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the existence of consciousness, etc., than the God of the Bible.

This is why I continue to shift through arguments for and against the existence of God. This is why my blog is called TRUTHbomb Apologetics. Because that is what I am interested in knowing- the truth.

Again, I regret that what could have been a very fruitful conversation has turned into nothing more than psycho-babble. Again, I pray in the future you can overcome your biases against those who hold a theist view and actually consider the evidence therein.

Should you respond, you may have the last word. I am more than confident that readers can shift through this interaction and decide for themselves who was bias and evasive.

If strong evidence were presented to support some religion, I would be deeply curious to study it closely to see if my views need to change again.

If you actually mean this, I would encourage you to consider the following book by Mike Licona-

The Resurrection Of Jesus.

Respectfully

Anonymous said...

Hey Chad and Brian,

I too enjoyed our cordial and respectful discussion - didn't mean to offend. We can certainly agree that we perceive the world in a very different way.

This feels like a good time to move on. Best wishes.

Lavinia4truth said...

Speaking as one whose husband used to hold this objection ( he no longer holds to this objection as he is now a follower of Christ), I would have to agree with the comments made by Dr. Ravi Zacharias that you noted in this post. I imagine that my husband, a former agnostic, would also agree with Dr. Zacharias. Thanks for the post.