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                   Wednesday, May 5, 2010 - 7:15PM CDT

A few quick thoughts on skepticism

By DAN ROBINSON
Storm Chaser/Photographer
25 Years of Storm Chasing
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I try not to inject this subject into my storm chasing blog too often, but it's something I feel is important enough to bring up once in a while.

As I've said before, I'm not afraid of the hardcore objections to Christianity or the Bible. I've held the point that if something is true, it can hold up to the challenges. In fact I actually encourage fellow Christians to read the objections. Every Christian should read and think about these things, because in our day and age they come up all of the time in everyday life - in politics, schools, work, and society in general. I don't think anything should be suppressed. Let people have their say. And as Ravi Zacharias says, "may the best worldview win".

So, here are a few thoughts I've had on the challenges to Christianity by the modern skeptic movement:

  • A supernatural element to the universe, by its own definition, might not be adequately proven or disproven using natural-based laws, experimentation, or observation. However, there is ample circumstantial and testimonial evidence to support its existence.
     
  • Many atheists and agnostics refusal to believe is a result of too many perceived 'logical holes' or things that they don't understand. That is, to them, all of those questions must have answers as a prerequisite to faith. I've been a Christian for almost 17 years, and I still don't have all of the answers nor do I understand everything I have questions about. That hasn't precluded my faith in Christ.
     
  • A major flaw in atheistic challenges is the incorrect presuming of motives and thought processes on Christians as to why they believe (blind faith, a crutch for problems, escaping from reason, forcing guilt on others, etc). I know this for a fact because none of the reasons for faith that atheists allege fits my own personal situation.
     
  • There is overwhelming first-hand circumstantial and testimonial evidence from saved Christians as to thier changed lives, changed behaviors, outlook on life, clarity of Biblical understanding, and expectations for the future. There are 'bad apples' to be sure, and even stronger Christians are not perfect - but a consideration of the whole (rather than focusing on the fringe elements) should reveal the big picture. If testimonial evidence is admissable in a court of law to the point of convicting or aquitting a defendant, then why isn't the testimony of Christians considered compelling evidence to the validity of the faith? Particularly when the supernatural Element behind faith (God) cannot be proven or disproven by natural science.
     
  • Anomalies in world history where Christianty has been abused by so-called followers (IE, the crusades) have been given an unfair weight as to the effects of a devout Christian society. A good investigator looks at the big picture.
     
  • I've read the long lists of questions regarding alleged Bible inconsistencies/contradictions, individual Christian behavior, motives for belief, and so on many times. A common charge is that the church/Christians have never been able to answer them. That's not true - most of these questions have been answered, just apparently not to the satisfaction the challengers (but satisfactorily to most Christians). A Google search for each objection will turn up plenty of answers to these common questions. As a Christian, the alleged contradictions are more from a lack of familiarity of the Bible, and more importantly, a lack of faith - which 'connects the dots' in ways impossible without it.
     
  • A refusal or reluctance to a public, protracted debate with atheists is not a concession. Not with me. Properly debating something of this magnitude takes time, preparation, effort and resources that I don't feel a huge desire to expend. I can put it this way - If I was cured of a major disease, I'd advertise the cure all I could so that others could benefit. But since I'm not a doctor, I couldn't intelligently debate the hows or whys that the cure worked for me. All I could say is that it worked! Even if I lost debate, the cure still works for those who will take it.

    Public debates are like a gang on the street tempting a passerby to a fight. Unwillingness to such a fight does not concede inferiority. I'm no stranger to debates, so I know from experience that they rarely produce results in either side changing their positions. That's why I feel it's a waste of energy (I do, however, like honest, one-on-one discussion with someone with whom I have mutual respect). I also don't believe that answering all objections via debate is the path to convincing the atheist or agnostic to faith in Christ. Faith comes from a supernatural element that cannot be obtained until one is willing to accept the possibility of its existence. Only then will its benefits be realized.

The following comments were posted before this site switched to a new comment system on August 27, 2016:

This is awesome. I'm quoting some of it on FB right now. Hope you don't mind! :)
- Posted by Jes from 25304
Many contradictions that atheists like myself cite can indeed be reconciled by reference to context or incorporated in a hermeneutic of interpretation, but I think that there do remain discrepancies that don't seem reconcilable. When was Jesus crucified in relation to Passover? The gospels differ on that question, given that a day for the Jews begun and ended with sundown. They also differ in their accounts of the attitude with which Jesus went to his death. More importantly, the gospels were compiled many decades after the events they narrate, in another part of the empire in Greek, based on legends that had been circulating during that time. The authors of the facts are actually anonymous. I recommend the work of Bart Ehrman, particularly "Misquoting Jesus" and "God's Problem." You cite the feelings that believers experience upon conversion as a proof of the truth of Christian doctrine. I don't think that follows. I think that there are simpler, secular reasons why believers feel happier, reasons which don't necessitate reference to supernatural powers. People in all kinds of religious traditions feel the same, be it buddhist meditation or nirvana, jewish mysticism, ecstatic experiences at the Oracle to Apollo at Delphi, even feelings upon reading one of those gimmicky self-help books. Related to that, it's also kind of like.. how convenient that, out of all of the gods humanity has ever believed in.. out of the hundreds of contemporary and historic religious traditions, you just happened to have been raised into the one culture in the one historical time period who believed in the one true God. How convenient. You know, I could go on and on and on about this, as I have in the past, but you are very well-spoken, clearly intelligent, and I wish you luck in your search for answers. I do have some old stuff posted about this (and about weather stuff) on my old blog at http://www.xanga.com/Matt2h
- Posted by Matt H from PA
Matt, I appreciate your comments. I should clarify though that the testimonial and experiential aspect of faith goes beyond feelings into the practical realm, IE specific answered prayers, changed behaviors, and experiences that defy coincidence. I will check out the links and books that you referenced.
- Posted by Dan R. from New Baden, IL
As an Agnostic, I applaud your refusal to public debate, and your stated reasons of futility and irrelavance. I also view Atheism as a religion just like Christianity or any other, especially if it is practiced in an evangelical(recruiting/arguing in favor of) way. They all require a certain level of Faith in unproven facts(or the lack thereof) regardless of what Atheists would lead you to believe by thier arguments. Proving a negative is even harder than proving a positive, so the bar for Atheists is probably higher for convincing me personally than it is for religions that "have god(s)". I haven't yet been convinced by either side. I lean towards there is a "something" of a higher level than us, but with the discrepancies of all major religions and the unproven origins and meanings of the horribly translated and biased texts, I just cannot subscribe to one in particular. Maybe if I were to learn Aramaic and read the Dead Sea scrolls directly, and drop the biased multiple translated King James or other English derivatives of the Bible, I may be more convinced to lean Judeo-Christian. Just play a game of Telephone... then do it for 2000 years in multiple languages, thats how I view much of the Bible and Koran etc. I do however agree with the social teachings presented by Jesus, especially in the Sermon on the Mount, too bad a large segment(not all) of the modern Right Wing Politically infatuated US brand Christianity does not. I can respect anyone's belief and what it means to them, but since I cannot feel their feelings or experience their experiences, I remain Agnostic and will listen to all sides with an open mind. Thanks Dan and Matt for having me think about this again... even if I came to the blog to see your thoughts on Monday's chase.
- Posted by Scott from Herrin, IL

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