Saturday, October 03, 2015

An anatomy of apostasy

i) Many apostates make a common mistake. And it's an elementary mistake. 

Typically, they were raised in a Bible-believing church. Then they took high school biology, or college Biology 101, or read a book by Richard Dawkins or Jerry Coyne. That sort of thing. And they lose their faith.

The rudimentary mistake is to compare two things that operate at different levels. They are comparing the Bible to science, or comparing theology to science. But these aren't directly comparable. There's an obvious sense in which a few pages of Scripture are no match for hundreds of pages of textbook evolutionary biology. Scripture wasn't designed to engage the issue at that level. Same thing with systematic theology.

The proper comparison would be to read two or more science books from opposing viewpoints. Those operate on the same plane. They address the same issues, at the same level of detail or technicality. They adduce prima facie scientific evidence for their respective positions. That's the relevant level of direct comparison and contrast. 

ii) It's also striking that apostates like this are often so lop-sided. Having dipped into the evolutionary literature, they refuse to read the opposing literature. They have no intellectual patience for the other side of the argument.

iii) In addition, they cut evolutionary theory lots of slack while they cut creationism no slack. They make many allowances for evolutionary theory. They don't let the difficulties in evolutionary theory faze them. They have faith that if we're just patient, if we wait it out, these challenges will be resolved. Or, if not, that in principle, they must be consistent with evolution. But they don't show the same deference to creationism. 

iv) They ask questions until they arrive at evolution. They come to rest with evolution. At that point they stop asking questions. Evolution is unquestionable. They no longer feel the need to keep posing pesky questions and demanding answers. At best, all questions and answers must now take place within the evolutionary paradigm. Ironically, that's the mirror image of many creationists, whom they disdain. 


  1. God works in mysterious ways, and through various means. As for apostates, like the after-effects of a bad chili cheese burrito, better out than in I always say.

  2. Apostates have their questions asked in reference to their own model of how evolution should work. So they cannot question the validity of their model, unless they compare it with another related one.

  3. I think your observations are dead on Steve.

  4. As a Van Tillian I do think there is a sense in which absolutely everything points to the existence of God to some degree or another. But in another sense (that I can't fully explain) from the human perspective, I'm convinced that in many (not all) instances God makes the evidence for theism and atheism for a person nearer to 50/50% (give or take). That way people's response to the evidence reveals where their heart is. As sinful humans we will tend to give slack to that view our heart prefers. We're all biased that way. We aren't purely rational creatures making perfectly logical decisions. We're emotive and naturally commit various instances of cognitive biases consciously and (more commonly) unconsciously (e.g. confirmation bias). Sometimes in God's sovereignty He provides evidence for Himself that is 100% or nearly so [e.g. Moses before the burning bush, the parting of the Jordan river before Joshua, Luther healing Melancthon of some sickness as well as Myconius of TB etc.]. But those are exceptional cases.

    Apostates and doubting Christians often make the following additional mistakes.

    1. The mistake of thinking that if they can't answer every objection to Christianity then it's their epistemic and moral duty as rational and honest persons to reject Christianity. A similar mistake is in thinking one is only justified in being (or continuing to be) a Christian ONLY AFTER one has examined all the objections to Christianity and answering all of them. But that doesn't follow at all. Something could be true even if there appears to be disconfirmatory evidence or arguments/defeaters. Not even science operates with those kinds of conditions/requirements/constraints on knowledge, probability, assent/belief, working hypothesis et cetera.

    2. Or apostates/doubting Christians make the mistake of thinking that the case for Christianity has to be absolute without any residual objections which haven't been fully answered. Or thinking that atheism is the default position unless and until Christianity is proven "sufficiently." Sufficiently ranging from absolute proof to %95 all the way down to 80%. As if 51% isn't sufficient or enough for the decision to become or remain a Christian. [IMO, the evidence for Christianity from a human perspective is well above 51%. Some days it seems to me 70%. Other days 99%, or 85%, or 100%, or 80%. It varies from day to day. I'm reminded of what C.S. Lewis said about faith.]

    3. Or make the mistake in thinking that if one can't personally answer every objection there are no answers or no one else has answers or could possibly provide an answer. It always amazes me how many apostates have never really delved deeply in Christian apologetics. If there are 20 levels of Christian and anti-Christian apologetics, most apostates never get past level 3 or 4. Most of them haven't even read the Bible in its entirety in their years of "being a Christian."


    1. 4. Or make the mistake in thinking that we ought not to consider our heart's desires in making a commitment to Christianity or some other anti-Christian worldview/philosophy of life. When, as a matter of fact, the heart cannot be separated from such a decision. Since, we're not only mentally weak, but we're all morally weak and have a tendency to choose that which would give our evil desires freer reign. Even some atheists admit this and point to science and psychology as providing confirmatory evidence. As the saying goes, "the heart wants what it wants." And Blaise Pascal is famous for saying, "the heart has reasons which Reason knows nothing of [or does not know, or does not understand]." Our hearts guide or reason rather than our reason guide our hearts more often than we realize.

      5. Or make the mistake of not understanding the full implications of rejecting/embracing either Christianity or atheism or some other religious view (e.g. other form of theism, deism, mysticism etc.). For example, how atheism undermines (or at least seriously calls into question) objective morality, reason, and the ability to engage in science.

      6. Or make the mistake of not realizing that one can know something internally even if one cannot demonstrate it externally. What W.L. Craig has referred to as the difference between "knowing" and "showing" the truth of Christianity. If Christianity is true, then one can be justified in knowing the truth of Christianity even if one doesn't have an external defeater for every objection. If the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit is real, then His testimony is indefeasible (i.e. the intrinsic defeater defeater of all anti-Christian objections).

      7. Or make a mistake in thinking evaluating and choosing a worldview is merely a mental issue/exercise and not realizing it might be a spiritual one as well. That there might actually be evil spirits hell bent on destroying our souls and doing their utmost in trying to suade our decision and commitment away from a worldview.


    2. 8. Or make the mistake in thinking that perfect objectivity is possible. Or that (relative) objectivity entails not going to people and resources (like pastors, apologists, books, audio/visuals), thinking that turning to those would compromise objectivity. Moreover, pride can subtly creep in and make us think we have to figure this all out ourselves. Not realizing the arguments for and against Christianity has been argued, debated, developed, and refined for millennia. Ironically, often what got them into doubt and having anti-Christian thoughts was itself an external source that called into question Christianity. Some even make the extreme opposite mistake in ONLY exposing themselves to anti-Christian literature.

      9. Or make the mistake in not realizing that while direct doxastic voluntarism is probably impossible in most cases, that INdirectly doxastic voluntarism is likely possible. That doing research, evaluating evidence and immersing oneself in a topic can increase confidence, faith and belief in the truth of a position. That's true for Christianity OR atheism (or some other religious worldview). If you feed you mind and heart on atheistic literature, atheological apologetics and friendships you'll have a tendency to become an atheist. Conversely, if you feed your mind on Scripture, Christian apologetics, Christian fellowship you'll have a tendency to become or remain a Christian.

      10. Or make the (extremely) gratuitous mistaken assumption of thinking that if God exists it makes absolutely perfect sense for God to provide near 100% evidence for His own existence. Not realizing that the response of our hearts to the existing evidence is itself a test on God's part. That it's also true regarding evidence that "to him who has more will be given, and to him who has not, what he has will be taken away" [paraphrase of Matt. 13:12]. If we refuse to appreciate the evidence that is before us, why should God give more? When we do appreciate it, God often does provide more evidence [factually, existentially, experientially, miraculously etc.]. For more on this see my blogposts:

      Detecting and Finding God

      "Unveiling" The Hiddenness of God

    3. Good point.

  5. This is very true. Seems to me that 1) Neo-Darwinism is False 2) Human beings are unique because our abilities of abstract thought, moral, and aesthetic abilities etc 3) There is clear evidence in, what are considered, more primitive societies (aborigines etc) of belief in a high-God who somehow became angry with man kind, and has since abandoned us. Seems to me there is a pretty clear correlation between that and Genesis, even if I cannot nail down every way in which those two line up. I would add for a final kicker that the evidence is overwhelming that Jesus rose from the dead. You would have to NOT want to see it.

  6. I know when I researched this for myself many years ago, I had difficulty finding scientific literature that dissented from the Darwinian status quo. That was a clue that something was amiss in the academy. AiG has plenty of scholarly resources that fill in the gap, but they weren't around yet. ICR's literature was geared for non-scientists and didn't seem adequate to the task of answering the scientific conclusions based on the presuppositional assertions of evolutionary scientists on a level that seemed weighty enough to take seriously. However, enough good arguments were being made by those efforts that were not answered anywhere in the evolutionary literature that made me realize that the current evolutionary thought was based on faulty assumptions. After delving into those assumptions, I found that the scientific "proof" of evolution was anything but actual proof. Their epistemology floats on air, which means that they built it top-down from the general conclusion they desired.

    The fact that the academy squelches dissent in this area is telling.

  7. Hello Steve et al.,

    Dawson responds:

    And, Steve? I'm aware of the past interactions between the two of you, so there's no need to fill me in regarding that.