Saturday, September 06, 2014

What if I'm wrong?

I have a few comments on a post by Mike Licona:

As a result, I’ve doubted the truth of my Christian faith many times; sometimes to the point of almost walking away from it.
Professing Christians who feel this way need to stop and ask themselves, where would they be going? Walk away…for what
Imagine if you accidentally slide down a cliff. On the way down you grab hold of a shrub on the face of the cliff. You have two options. You can either try to climb back up, or you can let go. But what does the second option amount to? What does letting go mean? Letting go for what? If you let go of the branch, what awaits you? You will fall to your death. Splat! 
Before you leave Christianity behind, ask what you're leaving it for. What lies ahead? Atheism? How's that any different than a free fall to the rocky ground below? If you're consistent, you will keep falling until you hit the hard surface of nihilism. That's where apostasy logically bottoms out. What breaks your fall breaks you
Nihilism is the belief that all values are baseless…It is often associated with extreme pessimism and a radical skepticism that condemns existence. A true nihilist would believe in nothing, have no loyalties, and no purpose other than, perhaps, an impulse to destroy. 
Ethical nihilism or moral nihilism rejects the possibility of absolute moral or ethical values. Instead, good and evil are nebulous, and values addressing such are the product of nothing more than social and emotive pressures. Existential nihilism is the notion that life has no intrinsic meaning or value…“the highest values devalue themselves. The aim is lacking, and ‘Why’ finds no answer.”
Many apostates begin with dutiful idealism, which they derive from their Christian upbringing. Dutiful idealism about truth and goodness. A duty to follow the evidence wherever it leads.
They view themselves as honest, virtuous, disinterested truth-seekers. In their view, this led them out of Christianity. Yet by leaving that behind, they implicitly turn their back on the very basis for duty that spurred them on that ill-fated journey in the first place. Their destination contradicts their starting-point. Their sense of duty makes no sense. Transplanted from Christianity to atheism, duty dies on the dry, barren soil. 
I’ve asked myself, “Have I been brain-washed? Am I unable to think objectively because I was brought up to believe?” 
What if that's exactly how God saves many people? By raising them in Christian families? By raising them in Christian churches? 
It can be good to ask, am I Lutheran (or Baptist or Presbyterian) because that's how I was raised. But those are intramural Christian questions. 
“What if I’m wrong?” 
Assuming, for the sake of argument, that you were wrong to believe in Christianity, so what? If you're wrong, it's not as if you have anything to lose. If nihilism is the logical alternative, then you're better off being wrong. Better to cling to that branch. Why let go for nothing? If the "right" answer subverts the very basis of rightness, then why be right? If you jettison normative values, what's the difference between right answers and wrong answers? For instance:
Admittedly, many apostates stop short. They draw an arbitrary line. 
Action #3: Recognize that absolute certainty is an unreasonable expectation. Some live with faith without ever doubting. That’s great. But some of us are so wired that we are incapable of such bliss. 
That fails to distinguish between certainty and certitude. Between what we can prove, what we can know, and a psychological sense of conviction or assurance. 


  1. Some of the former Christians I've interacted with argued that they didn't need to know the foundations of truth in order to know that truth is possible and that the data on Christianity disqualifies it from being the truth and the very foundation of truth. They say that for all they know the foundation for truth is located in some other religion they or Christians haven't yet encountered or in some other philosophy (e.g. Plato's forms). That it was intellectual honesty that lead them out of Christianity.

    My limited response has always been to try to show refute their objections to Christianity and to show how well Christianity does provide the preconditions for intelligibility and human experience etc. But then their response is that a consistent hypothesis that provides some explanatory power and scope doesn't necessitate the theory being actually true. I agree with that. They also argue that they would rather have a worldview that's less complete but true, rather than one that has greater explanatory power but is actually false.

    Nevertheless, I just challenge them to provide another worldview that does just as good or better a job than Christianity at providing such preconditions. If they can't, then Christians are rationally justified in continuing to hold to Christianity. That's not to say of course that every Christian will always have an answer to all objections to Christianity. At the present time there's a plethora of apologetic resources available to many people around the world. But in times past (and in some poorer segments of the present world) people didn't (or don't) have access to those resources. That's why the doctrine of the inner witness of the Holy Spirit is so vital. The witness of the Holy Spirit is the intrinsic defeater defeater. His witness is indefeasible and outweighs all objections to Christianity. Of course, non-Christians argue against the concept of the Inner Witness of the Holy Spirit. For example, saying that the very idea that some external force or power can compel one to believe something (against all seemingly contradictory evidence) is precisely the reason that should lead one (who believes in such a thing) to want to question the truth of one's beliefs. Since, that opens up the possibility of a powerful or omnipotent Cartesian-like demon deceiving us.

    But I point out that's an external critique. If the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth and can only speak and confirm the truth, then His witness ensures we believe the esssential truths of the Gospel rather than error. I've had these types of discussions in the past with an atheist who now vlogs on Youtube. For example his response and critiques of presuppositionalism here and here.

    I plan to write a response blog in the future to such challenges since I think the average presuppositionalist is behind the curve in the discussion; and that if they encounter such responses won't have an answer. That's also why I hope one day the better presuppositionalists like Steve, James Anderson, Paul Manata et al. will one day respond to him.

    1. BTW, I've collected links to may of William Lane Craig's resources (audio and text) on the topics of the Inner Testimony of the Holy Spirit and of Properly Basic Beliefs HERE.

    2. Only people I know who left responses being knowledgeable to Ozy is Scott Terry aka shotgun from van tillian fire. His beatdown on that idiot Alex Botten was beautiful in his debate. Dont really know any knowledgeable presups on youtube besides jason peterson from answerforhope

    3. For apostates to say intellectual honestly led then out of Christianity misses the point. For intellectual honesty has no normative value in atheism. In effect, they are saying intellectual honesty led them to deny intellectual honesty. It's self-defeating.