On Certainty

sin of cert

 

I recently read a fantastic book by Peter Enns called The Sin of Certainty. I will not lie, as skeptical as I was in reading this book, I was impressed and greatly satisfied with the result. I have a tendency, as do most Christians in the Western World, to intellectualize my faith. Enns hits on this hard. I want to discuss some of the spiritual insight I have gained in reflecting on some of these points.

 

Christianity is not rational. It can’t be because, post-Enlightenment Western civilization has significant epistemological differences from eras before. But why isn’t Christianity rational? There are plenty of reasons, and most of them do make sense, but we now have a very narrow view of what it means to “know.” Better yet, we have a very narrow view of the term “faith.” Faith and reason have been conflated in an almost unhealthy manner to form a false dichotomy between faith being a blind assertion with no evidential basis, or faith is essentially the same thing as reason when defined correctly. This epistemological debate stems from our ability to “know.” I would propose the Enlightenment era very much negatively affected how we should “know.” Reflecting on this, what should it mean to “know?”

 

For starters, science works off of repeatable empirical evidence. Due to principles such as falsification, science cannot make “proof” claims, just claims that are derived specifically from evidence. Likewise, history works off of evidence, but evidence that is not repeatable. Either way, it seems perfectly rational to accept both of these fields as legitimate. We do it all the time. To be rational is to base your beliefs on hard, physical evidence. I disagree. I do not mean I disagree that this is an invalid form of gaining knowledge, but knowledge cannot be reduced to these principles. Unfortunately, many contemporary western Christians have, without even realizing it, bought into this. Faith in God almost seems to be, at least in the apologetic sphere, working off of the same evidentialist-based principles as science and history. With the mass production of “defend the faith” books and apologetics seminars, we seem to be in a battle against some atheist agenda to overthrow religion with scientific or naturalistic evidence, while simultaneously using those same principles to either assume God’s existence can be reduced down to mere scientific principles, or that science simply does not hold up against supernatural creation.

 

This is unfortunate, because when scientists such as Lyell, Wallace, Darwin, Einstein, and Hoyle start to say a bunch of weird stuff that later seems to make a lot of sense and renovate the scientific enterprise, Christian opposition to scientific principles (with an odd contortion of the same principles) seems to fall short. This is where a new (or rather, really old and forgotten) idea of “knowing” should come into play. All truth is God’s truth. This is a standard the Christian should live by. So, if science or history conflicts with your faith, it doesn’t actually conflict, but it should give you more insight into God’s creativity. This scientific way of viewing knowledge should be one part of the Christian’s worldview, but it seems that it is often the only part.

 

This sets us up to rely on our faith in God through our own knowledge and reason. The problem is things are always changing, and what seems rational at one moment may seem completely ridiculous the next. By doing this, we are confining God to our feeble understanding of who He is. The reality is that God is ultimate Being, and His ability to be grasped in its fullness is impossible. Faith, as Enns points out, must be much more about our Trust in God than our feeble arguments that we use to support his existence. Do not hear me saying that these apologetic arguments are not of great importance and do not have their place. They absolutely do and as a philosophy student, I affirm these. But the real issue lies in knowing God through trust. This is difficult to put into words, but it cannot be seen in the same rational light as the scientific method. It is an entirely different way of knowing, but knowing nonetheless. Even in times of doubt, we shouldn’t run away and ignore the fear of being wrong, but we should embrace doubt as a way of God showing us our limited knowledge, and trusting Him through those times of struggle anyway. Also, we should embrace being wrong, because you can’t gain knew knowledge until you admit you are wrong about something. This allows us to not put God in a box where He has to operate on our rules and conditions, and it lets us not lose faith when our “arguments” are proven to be unsound.

 

“Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.”

-CS Lewis

Theism and Atheism: Where the Burden of Proof Really Lies

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Do we really need much of a reason to believe in God at all? Reformed epistemology is the idea that God is a “properly basic belief.” God does not need to be inferred from other truths to be reasonable. The most notable advocate for this field is Alvin Plantinga. This particularly has to do with the burden of proof. Where does it lie? Many people will assert that theists have the burden of proof because they have to prove the existence of something, not the other way around. This, of course, is under the assumption that God is a physical being that can produce empirical evidence for Himself, and if He can’t, there is no good reason to believe in Him at all.

 

I will first bring up the old watchmaker analogy. I know, it’s old and overused, but I think it definitely applies to this situation in many ways. Firstly, if you were to find a watch, it would be proper to assume that someone created the watch. This is a properly basic belief. There is no physical evidence that a watchmaker exists. The watchmaker cannot be be sensed by any of the five senses and there is no empirical data. However, it would be absolutely absurd to assume that the watch did not have a creator. This is a good example of how the burden of proof is not on the one who assumes that a watchmaker exists, but on the person who assumes that there is no watchmaker.

 

Plantinga first proposed his version of the idea in his 1967 book God and Other Minds. In this book, he gives the idea that believing in other minds is completely unsupported by argument, yet we still see reason to believe in them; likewise believing in God is unsupported by argument, yet it may still be rational to do so. The argument against this claim goes like this:

 

1.  It is irrational or unacceptable to accept theistic belief without sufficient or appropriate evidence or reason.

2.  There is not sufficient/appropriate evidence or reason for theistic belief.

3.  Belief in God is irrational.

 

Many Christian apologists deny the second premise. I agree, I don’t think the second premise holds any weight at all. However, reformed epistemologists will deny the first premise. What we have to figure out is if anything can exist at all without the existence of a supreme being. There are a few things we know that we do not have evidence for:

1.  The external world exists.

2.  The past exists.

3.  Other minds exist.

 

These are all properly basic beliefs. Essentially there becomes a point where we have to trust our own cognitive faculties to create a basis for belief; otherwise it would not be reasonable on any level to believe that the external world exists. We all have to realize that reasoning starts somewhere. So, the question is: Does God fall into this category?

 

Here’s the kind of knowledge that I’m getting at. Belief in God is a lot like belief in other persons, and not belief in scientific properties. Scientific method and properties, which seems to be the only source of knowledge for the naturalist, is incredibly deficient when it comes to personal relations with other people. In this sense, it is absurd to assume that the scientific method is essential for ALL parts of human behavior and knowledge. If this were the case, we’d all be sitting in labs doing experiments, cut off from society and unable to have proper relationships. This is the sense that we know God. Not in an empirical sense, but in a relational one. Can this be counted as “knowledge.” It certainly does with other people. Why not something greater? This is why God counts as a properly basic belief, and the burden of proof is not on the theist.

Does God Really Know What He’s Doing?

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I find that the more I study atheistic philosophy, the more I am convinced that it is unable to answer some of the big questions in modern philosophy. However, I will admit that the one single greatest objection to God’s existence is the problem of evil. This post will relate to this philosophical problem, even though I gave my resolution to it in “Benevolence in a Damaged Existence.” I write this post for the Christian or non-Christian who struggles to reconcile evil with the Christian God. The title of this post is “Does God Really Know What He’s Doing?” because, while we grant ourselves the notion that a good God can exist even in light of evil on a logical basis, when it comes to actually experiencing that evil, we seem to stumble and fall, and even question God’s existence. When I ask the question of does God really know what He’s doing, I am not referring to God’s intelligence, I’m referring to His regulation of evil. As I described in my last post on evil, the reason God allows evil is because of free will. Take the element of free will out and we are basically creatures not worth creating or loving. So, in this light it makes sense for God to allow evil to consume the world. Now, the big question is “Why does God allow Christians to suffer?” If, as a Christian, one dedicates his or her life to Christ and attempts to live a life for him, then why would he allow them to still suffer? This is a tough question to answer. To the Christian I would say that you are still fighting through a sinful nature. So long as you are in this nature, you will experience pain. Has God understood this? Does He really know what He’s doing to us when He allows us to go through pain? You better believe it. Jesus lived an absolutely perfect life and subjected himself to our sinful nature. Not only that, but he took all of the weight of our sin and brought it upon himself. You may experience suffering, but you will never experience suffering the way Jesus did. I have mentioned before that we are desensitized to sin and unable to see the true detrimental effects of it. I stand hard on this reasoning because it really helps bring a solution to the problem of evil. In fact, I would argue that the problem of evil can, in a way, help us to experience God’s love in an even greater manner. If we could fully conceive of evil then we could see that, even if God chose to leave and have nothing to do with us, He would still be a good and loving God. We don’t deserve His grace in any way. The fact that He does do anything at all is evidence of an even greater love than anything we can comprehend. We often question God’s motives on issues of suffering, and that’s FINE. We often forget about Jesus’ words on the cross, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” The one and only Son of God questioned God! Why would we not be allowed to do the same thing? While this world should be consumed in nothing but evil, we were given a chance to live for eternity, and that is a much bigger gift than I could ever expect for a world as messed up as ours.

 

Are Christians Really Insane?

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A couple years ago, I posted a Facebook status talking about Obamacare.  This discussion soon got off topic and turned into a religious debate.  One guy in particular commented on my status, used some very harsh and inappropriate language, and then made the comment, I quote, “anybody who believes in an invisible man is insane!”  At first, I just ignored this ignorant statement, but then he started private messaging me.  He went on and on and on about how Christians are stupid and insane.  However, he failed in showing any evidence to support his own reasoning.  Is this enough?  Is it insane to believe in God and all of the things that are entailed in Christianity?

 

What if it’s true?

 

If somebody is hearing voices, or if they feel as if something inside of them is telling them or motivating them to do something, and those voices or feelings are not there from some outside source, this person is classified as mentally ill.  This could be used against Christianity.  However, there are huge implications if this is not the situation.  If there is a God who is speaking to us, whether it be through Scripture or some other method, then you could not be classified as insane for hearing God speak to you.  Why?  Because God would be an outside source.  So, how do we prove this one way or another?

 

How do we know?

 

How do we know if God is truly speaking to us or not?  Sam Harris describes people who believe that God is speaking to them as mentally ill.  However, this can in no way, shape, or form be used as evidence against the existence of God.  Why?  Because it has no evidential basis for it.  You cannot prove that God isn’t speaking to someone.  I am normally not a fan of arguments such as “I can’t prove that God exists, but you can’t prove that He doesn’t.”  I will agree that this argument doesn’t make any sense.  However, in the situation where people claim that God is speaking to them, this is different, because it is an issue of perspective, not empirical evidence.  However, we can validate personal experience with a different kind of evidence (or at least form some sort of philosophical theory behind it).

 

But you don’t have any scientific evidence for this claim.

 

I don’t have to.  I’m not strictly speaking of empirical evidence (because there is none).  God is not proven by science, but by other philosophical methods.  If you support scientism, then you are going to disagree with everything I’m about to say.  Science and empirical data are not the only way to gain knowledge.  Can I know this?  Absolutely.  How?  Because in order to show how evidential science actually is, you have to use a different method.  “Philosophy of Science” if you will.  The Scientific method cannot prove the scientific method.  This does not mean that the scientific method is flawed, it means that a different “nonscientific” method is used to determine its validity.  Which, for me, is fine because I accept other methods of gaining knowledge other than science.  Philosophy is not a branch off of science (as some people assert) but science is a branch off of philosophy.  Why?  Because philosophy is the basis for scientific validity.  Asking the question of “How does science work?” is not a scientific question (if it is, then I would like to see it proposed).  Why am I ranting on about scientific evidence?  Because mental illness is often confirmed through observational data, or some other psychological theory.  When it comes to the issue of God, this cannot be the case.  So, the argument of whether someone is mentally ill for believing that God is speaking to them or not becomes irrelevant when it comes to STRICTLY science, because there are other philosophical issues as well.  You cannot say on JUST a scientific basis that God is speaking to someone or not.

 

So, where is your “philosophical” evidence?

 

Well, the evidence I see lies at the heart of many issues.  I believe the only question of “why is there something rather than nothing?” is ultimately answered by some sort of transcendent being (see my post “Defense of the Kalam Cosmological Argument”).  How do I know this is God?  Through teleology and other inductive methods (intrinsic fine-tuning in our universe, etc.).  Through this, I can clearly see that there is an intelligent, transcendent agent who created our universe.  You can disagree with all of this evidence, however, when calling a Christian “insane” for believing in God, well, there’s a lot more evidence to consider with that claim.  No, not all atheists/agnostics/naturalists etc. believe that Christians are insane.  There are, however, people who do believe this.  I have seen studies out there that claim that Christians are mentally ill.  These studies are based on asking ridiculous questions that do not even pertain to the existence of a personal God or lack thereof.  If you are not even willing to address the ultimate problem at hand, which is the evidence for God, then how can you have a right to call someone insane?  Like I’ve said many times before, this issue is about asking the right questions.  And I feel that the right questions are scarcely asked when discussing these issues.

Defense of the Kalam Cosmological Argument

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  1.  Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

 

This is a simple yet very complicated argument for some.  This argument does not prove the existence of the Christian God, but rather it attempts to show that some action outside of the natural realm caused the universe to come into existence (which most people would say IS God).  However, many people still seem to have a big problem with the first two premises.  I’ll go ahead and start with tackling premise one in this first section.

 

Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

 

The first law of thermodynamics states that “matter cannot be created or destroyed.”  (I know, this is not what the official law states, but it is a dumbed down version of it.)  Many would argue that we have no basis to claim that everything that begins to exist has a cause, because we have never actually seen anything begin to exist.  This is true, but only to a small degree.  Matter cannot be created, so therefore everything in the natural world is just a rearrangement of this matter.  Matter changes form, but the quantity of it doesn’t change with new “creation.”  Matter cannot be destroyed, so, even if you “destroy” or get rid of something, you haven’t destroyed the matter, but you changed its form.  So, in a sense the person who is making this argument is right in that we don’t exactly see something coming into existence, but in a different sense this is not the case.  To make this argument you would have to assume that every human being has existed since the beginning of time (around 14 billion years ago).  You can make the argument that the “parts” that make us up have always existed, but it would absurd to assume that we as human beings have always existed.  Who we are, our consciousnesses, etc. have not always existed.  The matter that makes all of those things up has always existed.  However, that rearranging of the matter IS the cause of the creation, not necessarily the matter itself.  The end product, which in the scenario above is human beings, is the effect of the cause, which is the rearranging of matter.  So, the argument of “everything that begins to exist has a cause” still stands as rational.

 

The universe began to exist.

 

I’m not sure exactly why this is much of an issue.  At one point in time, prier to the 20th century, it seemed rather reasonable to believe that the universe has always existed.  However, with the discovery of big bang cosmology (which I’m not sure why theists run from), it has become obvious that the universe had a definite beginning.  (I haven’t heard very many arguments trying to refute this claim, but there are some out there).  With a definite beginning to the universe, the obvious question next is whether or not this definite beginning was the cause of divine intervention or something else.

 

But what about the multiverse?

 

The multiverse theory has very little if any basis supporting it at all.  I am extremely open to this theory, however there is no scientific evidence for it.  This is due to the fact that we can only apply scientific principles to what is in our own universe, not what is outside of it (if the M-Theory is exactly what most scientists suggest it is).  However, for the sake of argument, let’s just assume that the M-Theory is plausible.  Many may say that our universe was created from parts of another universe.  This would require entropy to never increase, and we know that this is not the case.  While the quantity of matter never decreases, the quality does.  In order for the above theory to work, the quality of matter would have to remain constant, and this goes directly against the second law of thermodynamics.  So, this cannot be explained scientifically, much less naturally.  Like I said above, I am not making a case for the existence of the Christian God, just that the universe does have to have some unnatural, unscientific cause (after all, if science is how we interpret the natural world, and the natural world had a definite beginning, then there’s no way that natural products could have created the universe).  There are many more ways people have tried to use the multiverse to fight against Kalam (which is weird, because nobody seems to be able to understand what exactly the multiverse is), but this is just one hypothetical example.

 

Well, if God is the beginning cause of the universe, then who caused God?

 

Ah, yes.  This good old question.  Who caused God?  First of all, to even ask this question has huge metaphysical implications.  You must first completely misunderstand the first premise “Everything that begins to exist has a cause” as “everything is caused.”  To make this claim, you would have to know everything about every field of knowledge (which clearly nobody does).  On a scientific basis, yes you can claim that everything is caused, but on a complete metaphysical basis, you cannot make this claim.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not completely denying the antecedent.  I am simply saying that God is uncaused.  Is that a step of faith?  Yes.  Is it an even bigger step of faith to claim the opposite?  You bet.  While I also don’t know everything about metaphysics, I can rest easily on the claim that there is something that transcends beyond the material world, which is uncaused and goes beyond our own logic and reasoning, because that is the most consistent conclusion.

Apologist Review: William Lane Craig

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William Lane Craig is one of the more well known Christian apologists today, mainly for his ongoing fight against the New Atheism.  Craig has debated many atheists and people of secular viewpoints over the years, but in the last decade has focused his attention on the advocates of the New Atheism.  He has engaged in debates with Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and many others.  Though he has challenged Richard Dawkins to a debate on multiple occasions, Dawkins refuses.  Craig has set the stage for very rational discussions on religion and defending the faith.

 

He usually starts off with the Kalam Cosmological Argument.  This is an argument that I have yet to see challenged properly by any atheistic scientist.  It’s an excellent starting point to strictly defend theism (which is what Craig is trying to do).  It is one of the central deductive arguments for theism, and Craig articulates it properly.

 

He then normally goes on to talk about teleology and the evident design in the universe.  He talks much about the multiverse theory and its relationship to teleology, as well as the probabilities of such an event occurring.

 

These are two of Craig’s main arguments for the existence of God.  However, he is attacked by both secular and Christian groups.  Many people have accused Craig of using Ad Hominem fallacies.  However, he has never directly insulted an opponent or their arguments without giving proper reasoning.  Yes, he has been impolite (and he has admitted it), but that says nothing about the quality of his arguments.  Also, he has been attacked by Ken Ham at Answers in Genesis on his view of the age of the earth.  This is not very concerning, because Ham isn’t given much credit at all by any group of people, even many young earth creationists.  It isn’t surprising that Craig has been lashed out at, but his arguments are solid and his abrasive personality is appropriate in light of the rude and angry persona of the New Atheist group.  Overall he is a great apologist with excellent arguments and a great way of presenting himself.

Asking the Right Questions in an Age of Disbelief

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One of the things I love about Christianity is it ties in everything that we experience in the world together.  Not only that, but it helps me make better sense of everything.  However, one thing that I see as a struggle today is many Christians feel as if they are losing ground to the secular community.  Is Christianity dying, and is non-religion winning?  I feel like sometimes Christians feel as if they are losing the battle with their arguments, because as we gain more knowledge, atheistic arguments just seem more plausible.  I am here to make the argument that this is not so.

 

The debate between Christians and atheists certainly has changed over time, at least in the last 100 years or so.  Arguments have been formed, revised, and thrown out on both sides as time has gone on.  Let’s go all the way back to about 6000 years ago.  Man did not have the technology or knowledge that we have today.  All of their ideas about ancient cosmology and other sciences were very different than today.  One of the biggest things was most people did not see any distinction between the natural and supernatural worlds.  In fact, there were no such concepts around back then.  Things really started to change over the centuries with advances and discoveries in science that no one would have ever thought could possibly happen.  

 

Many of the first people to arrive in America were Christians who were very grounded in their faith.  Philosophical ideas from all sides were thrown around and, for a while, atheism didn’t seem to stand a chance.  Most of the philosophers, writers, and scientists were Christians.  However, in the 1700s-1800s, Christianity started to lose it’s ground.  Christians started to become intellectually lazy, focusing on strictly the spiritual, physical, and social aspects of Christianity, completely ignoring the mental.  This was a bad mistake on the Christian part.  This is why secularism started to gain its ground.  In the midst of all of this, Darwinian evolution arose and this completely revolutionized the way scientists thought about biological life.  New discoveries were starting to be discovered about ancient cosmology, and science seemed to cover up all of the evidence that Christians were using.  Science was gaining major ground, and it was able to explain things that many people never thought it would be able to.  Then, in the past decade, four men rose to fame.  Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennet.  Each of these men, being experts in very different things, began to attack theism from many different angles, revolutionizing the way the Western World viewed religion.  So, what are we to do with all of this?  One of the biggest things to note is that the argument has changed from strictly philosophy, to science.  Scientism has taken over the minds of many people.

 

As Christians, what we have to realize is what constitutes a valid argument.  When discussing issues of God, we cannot resort to scientific consensus, but to philosophy.  We have to learn to ask the right questions.  If you view everything from a scientific standpoint, chances are you are not going to come up with God as a conclusion.  If you view it from a philosophical standpoint, and possibly combined with science, I think it would be very probable to come up with God as a valid conclusion.  Examples of scientific questions are:  Why does the earth revolve around the sun?  Why does biological life change over time?  How old is the universe?

 

Some philosophical questions are:  Why are we here?  Is there an afterlife?  Is morality objective or relative?  Is there a God?  Why is there something instead of nothing?

 

There is clearly a different standard between these two sets of questions.  Asking the right questions is the most important thing when it comes to argument, and this is where atheists have failed in their arguments.  They have successfully done a good job at making many people view everything from a scientific standpoint, and this has diminished our culture’s view at asking the right questions.  Atheism has not succeeded in proposing valid arguments, it has succeeded at getting the argument off topic and asking the wrong questions.  In order for Christianity to thrive, we have to come together and take the issue of God’s existence from a different viewpoint.

Teleology and the Multiverse Theory

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The teleological argument is, for some people, one of the most powerful arguments for the existence of God.  It is often called the argument from design, and it attempts to show the existence of God using empirical evidence.  There are many forms of the teleological argument, some have been demolished and some are still standing strong.  The one I want to talk about, which is probably the biggest one, is the fine tuning of the universe.  Is our universe finely tuned for life?  Is there evidence in our universe to support it?  Is there a better explanation other than God?

 

Martin Rees, an astronomer from England, published a book titled Just Six Numbers, where he talks about six very precise numbers where, if one of them is “untuned” life within our universe would cease to exist.  Now, it is impossible for these numbers to align up perfectly to where life does exist, so the most logical conclusion for some would be that there has to be a designer.  However, we run into a problem, because there is another option.  The multiverse theory.  Are there multiple universes?  And if there are, can this demolish this form of the teleological argument?

 

The theory goes something like this.  There are an infinite number of universes out there with an infinite number of possibilities, therefore drastically increasing the probability that life can exist in our universe without a designer.  However, there are a ton of problems with this theory.

 

First of all, the multiverse theory is proposed by physicists as a scientific theory, and there is nothing scientific about it.  Things that are tested scientifically have to reside in our universe, and the multiverse theory by definition takes place outside of our universe.  Another problem is there is absolutely no evidence for it at all.  Literally none.  The final problem with it is none of the scientific properties in our universe would work in other universes, since other possibilities outside of the possibilities in our universe have to exist.  Also, the multiverse theorists have punched a hole in their own argument because if every possibility exists, then God HAS to exist.  Overall, the multiverse theory is just a very poorly designed philosophy.  A designer is much more probable, because otherwise you are just assuming there are a fist full of maybes.

 

If the multiverse theory did exist, does this diminish my belief in God?  No.  There are plenty more evidences for God’s existence, such as how these multiple universes came into existence in the first place.  Overall, we are still left with a very probable explanation for the Creator God.

 

 

Adapting Faith

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I’m going to take a break from my posts on skepticism and talk about the current state of faith in our culture.  This still has to do with knowledge and truth, but not on the same lines as my previous post.  As a Christian, I believe that we need to be aware of the history of faith and how it has changed.  I have come to believe one central thing in my studies.  Faith that cannot adapt to change will significantly shrink and eventually die out.  Now, what do I mean by this?  If our faith is grounded on what we may have thought at one point in our lives, or at one point in our history, then we will see Christianity slowly start to go away.  My theory is that this is what is happening in our society right now.  Yes, there are people genuinely seeking to disprove God, but there are also Christians who feel so strongly that they cannot abandon what they have been taught, that they are willing to refute modern findings in history, science, and other fields of knowledge to keep their fundamental beliefs.  The American society is becoming more and more hostile to Christianity, and it is not because they have no reason.  The popular myth is that Christianity cannot adapt to change, and this is because CHRISTIANS have not allowed it to adapt to change.

 

I live by one central motto in my life.  “All truth is God’s truth.”  I am not afraid to discover what is true, because I do not feel as if God wants me to live in ignorance.  God created the world and everything in it, and so I think it is a sin to sit back and just not discover what is out there because of fear of what we might discover.

 

There are several examples of times where science has changed and many Christians have felt that they cannot accept it, because of what they have been taught.  One example of ignorance in science is when Copernicus theorized that the earth revolved around the sun.  He was deemed a heretic because, in the book of Joshua, Joshua asks God to stop the sun in the sky.  This implied that the sun revolved around the earth, not vise versa.  The reason why he was called a heretic was because people could not let go of their fundamental beliefs and accept the change.  This change brought another way of viewing the Bible into perspective.  God does not correct us if we are ignorant of something in His creation, He lets us discover it on our own.

 

Another example of how science was very different in the past is the people who lived during the time that Genesis was written had a lot of strange, false views about what science was.  They believed that knowledge was derived from our intestines, not our brains.  They also did not believe in a supernatural or a natural world.  Nobody could even perceive of a world where God did not create it.

 

Now, we live in a culture where atheists and agnostics are making the claim that we do not need God or religion because science can explain everything, or will eventually be able to explain everything.  This is because they are taking advantage of the things that Christians are not willing to adapt to, and using them as a weapon against God.  I can see where they are coming with this, however it is not a proper approach.  We used to think angels pushed the planets in orbit, we now know that this is not the case.  We used to think that intelligence came from the intestines, we now know that this is not the case.  We used to think that the earth was only 6000 years old, and we now know that this is not the case.  We used to think that the great complexity of biological life on earth was the result of a designer, and we now know that this is not the case.  Sadly, there are many Christians who will not accept these truths.  I can go on and on, but the point is, if we are trying to conflate God with science, we are asking the wrong questions.  Asking the proper questions is the most important thing to saving Christianity in our culture.  You see, science hasn’t changed since the time when people were extremely ignorant of science.  We are constantly discovering just what is out there and what kinds of questions to ask when trying to figure out things about God.  If we are not open to change, and if we are not open to our faith evolving, we will lose opportunities for winning people to Christ.  Our society is becoming extremely secular because Christians will not open up and embrace the existing reality that is in front of them.  My hope and prayer is that Christians will not settle for intellectual laziness and go out, learn to ask the right questions, find the right answers, and then embrace the secular culture to ultimately further the Kingdom of God.

 

 

“Explaining how something happens scientifically doesn’t explain it away; the question of purpose, intentionality, the question of why still remains there on the table.”

-Alister McGrath

Is True Knowledge Attainable?: Part 1

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Skepticism is the questioning of knowledge, fact, or opinion.  Skepticism is an interesting view because it can take form in many different ways.  We are all skeptical, or doubtful, of many things in life.  For instance, if somebody came up to you and claimed that the grass was no longer green, but purple, you should be very skeptical of this assumption.  However, what I want to focus on is philosophical skepticism.  Can we really “know” anything at all?  Does it really matter if we know anything at all?  Now, there are a couple of important things that we need to establish before we dive into the problems with this view.  

 

First, we need to define the term “knowledge.”  Knowledge is the information, understanding, or skill that you get from experience or education.  There are really two levels that we can know certain things on.  You can know something beyond a shadow of a doubt, and you can know something beyond a reasonable doubt.  If I know something beyond a shadow of a doubt, I know it with absolute 100% certainty.  There are only a couple of things that I can actually know beyond a shadow of a doubt.  I can know that I exist, because I can think (“I think therefore I am”).  I can also know that truth exists.  I may not be able to know what is true for certainty, but I can know that truth in it of itself exists, because even if truth didn’t exist, that would still be a true thing.  And the final thing that I MIGHT be able to say beyond a shadow of a doubt is that God exists, because without God I don’t think there could be anything at all.  That is really it.  Everything else is subject to knowledge beyond a reasonable doubt.  Two movies that come to mind when discussing this issue are The Matrix and The Truman Show.  Both of these movies are centered around one or more people that think they are living in the real world, but it turns out that the world they are living in is not necessarily what they think it is.  Now, we can watch a movie like The Matrix and not really think anything of it.  But is there a logical possibility that the Matrix is true for us?  Yes.  There is a logical possibility that it is true, but there is not a reasonable possibility that it is true.  We have absolutely no reason at all to assume that it is true.  So, now that we have established the difference between reasonable possibility and logical possibility, I want to answer the big question that separates skeptics from non-skeptics.  Can knowledge beyond a reasonable doubt be counted as real knowledge, even though there is a logical possibility that we could be wrong?  The skeptic says that there is no way to know something unless you can establish it beyond a shadow of a doubt, the non-skeptic says otherwise.  I will answer this question in Part 2 of this post.