Saturday, September 27, 2014

John 20:29 And Michael Shermer

There's a small handful of Biblical passages that are often cited by those who want to portray Christianity as anti-intellectual. Even some professing Christians will cite a passage like John 20:29 as an apologetic against apologetics. I've often commented on how badly such passages have to be taken out of context in order to abuse them for anti-intellectual purposes.

What I want to do here is note how the recent Michael Shermer story illustrates what John 20:29 actually seems to be referring to. If somebody like Michael Shermer were to believe in the paranormal after having a paranormal experience, what would be wrong with that? Would I fault him for wanting evidence for the paranormal? For not taking a blind leap in the dark? For citing his experience as a justification for changing his view? For trying to persuade other people by citing reason and evidence in support of his position? No. It's good when somebody like Shermer wants evidence, doesn't just take a blind leap in the dark, tries to persuade other people by citing the evidence of his own experience with the paranormal, etc. I don't fault him for those things. I fault him for not accepting the existence of paranormal phenomena on the basis of the evidence he had access to prior to his own experience. The evidence he had previously was well beyond what was needed to justify a belief in paranormal phenomena. He didn't need to wait for a personal experience.

Similarly, it doesn't make sense to take John 20:29 as a rebuke of Thomas for being too intellectual, for wanting reason, evidence, and such. Rather, as far as Thomas is being rebuked on intellectual grounds in that passage, he's being rebuked for not following the evidence he already had to its logical conclusion. He already had Jesus' prophecy fulfillments, other pre-resurrection miracles performed by Jesus, his predictions of his resurrection, the empty tomb, and the testimony of other people who saw the risen Jesus, for example. Thomas was asking for more when he didn't need it, much like Shermer.

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