Later on in life, I would experience a few more crises of faith. The most painful one occurred during my doctoral studies. I came to realize that all of my previous bouts with doubt ended when I found the answers I was looking for. In other words, I had been looking for ways to confirm the truth of my Christian faith. This time, I wanted to engage in a most sincere quest for truth, no matter where it led. I wanted to take a thorough look at whether Jesus rose from the dead. I would not avoid any difficult question or troubling issue. And I would, in a sense, document my journey for others to view and criticize. That’s why the book that resulted ended up being so large.
The notion of embarking on a quest for truth, "no matter where it leads," is a popular axiom. But that's a dubious way of framing the issue.
To begin with, it doesn't surprise me that Licona is a cradle Christian. The notion that we have a duty to pursue truth wherever it leads is very idealistic, and many people raised in the faith share that idealistic outlook.
That, however, can be very ironic. What if your idealistic quest for truth terminates in nihilism? What if you begin with idealism but end with nihilism?
Suppose that pursuing truth no matter where it takes you eventually leads you to atheism. And what, in turn, if atheism leads to moral and existential nihilism? Indeed, that's not just hypothetical. A number of secular thinkers candidly admit that implication.
Logically, that's not a two-way street. For a nihilist has no obligation or motivation to pursue truth no matter where it leads.
But if nihilism could never function as your starting-point (except for the sake of argument), then why should it function as your (potential) end-point? The quest for truth is self-defeating if the destination nullifies the very value of truth and truth-seekers. Why begin the journey if that's where the journey ends? It becomes a worthless intellectual exercise in which you have nothing to gain and everything to lose.
This way of casting the issue is short-sighted and naive. It's foolhardy to imagine that intellectual honesty requires you to maintain that everything is up-for-grabs.
Moreover, that's not even possible. A quest for truth presupposes criteria. You can only question some things if you take other things for granted. Something must furnish a standard of comparison. Everything can't be questionable, for something can only be questionable in relation to something unquestionable or less questionable.
Both in principle and practice, we should take atheism off the table. No position that conduces to moral and existential nihilism even merits consideration. And that greatly narrows the remaining options.
It really comes down to religious options. And it's easy to narrow down the religious options. In Eastern religion, the divine is essentially unknowable.
In the West, most religious traditions attempt to ground their claims in the Bible. It may be part of the Bible, or the Bible plus their supplements. But that provides a common standard of comparison. That provides a criterion.