Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Seek harder–or let go of God?

1. Normally I wouldn't bother commenting on something like this. Normally I wouldn't be aware of it. Deconversion testimonies are a dime a dozen. However, W. L. Craig commented on this, which brought it to my attention. 

There can be an ironic tension in Christian apologetics. You generally target the most impressive objections to Christianity. If you debunk the strongest objections, then the weaker objections are a moping-up operation.

But that's elitist in the sense that most apostates and atheists aren't high-level thinkers, and the reasons they leave the faith or never consider the faith in the first place aren't typically that intellectual–even if they pride themselves on their superior rationality. 

2. I doubt it's coincidental that he's a child of divorce. I assume divorce can be very damaging to boys who are separated from their fathers, which is a recipe for low self-confidence and low self-esteem. A recipe for emotionally immature adult men. I don't say that as a putdown. If a boy doesn't get the kind of male mentoring he needs in childhood, natural male affection and attention, role-modeling and "bonding", that's psychologically harmful and leaves him emotionally vulnerable. 

There are different responses to that. Some men overcompensate by cultivating ostentatious machismo, while other boys may be very introverted and unsure of themselves. (Of course, some boys are natural introverts. That's fine.)

3. Apropos (2), it's natural to use your formative years as a frame of reference. To some extent, all of us use our childhood as a yardstick, for better or worse (depending on the kind of childhood we had). However, that can be taken too far. It's literally childish to be a slave to your childhood. 

Personal experience shouldn't be your only yardstick for judging truth-claims. Most of what we know or believe is based on secondhand information. We don't generally evaluate scientific or historical claims based on personal experience, yet when it comes to religion, so many people treat their personal experience as the definitive standard of comparison. But it's irrational to act as though what happened to you, as one individual at a particular time and place in human history, is a representative sample. 

4. He was stuck in a rut. He kept waiting for God to give him a tangible experience. Kept "listening". What did he expect to hear? He wanted to be "in a relationship" with Jesus. 

But frankly, that's just folk theology. While God gives some people a tangible experience, there's no promise that God will do so. That's why it's important to have a Christian faith grounded in objective evidence. Because he didn't have that to fall back on, he lost his faith. 

5. In fairness, professing Christians can be disappointed by God's silence. By God's apparent absence. That's a common refrain in OT prophets and psalmists. It's psychologically understandable to feel that "I didn't push God away–he pushed me away!" I can relate to that personally. 

The fact remains, though, that you need to cultivate an evidence-based faith. And you need to have an unsentimental understanding of what atheism represents. It's wonderful to have a sense of God's providence in your life. Some believers have that. Some unbelievers have that–which is catalyst to conversion. But that's not something you can count on. 

6. Finally, he suffers from an inadequate grasp of experience. Suppose I'm in a museum room containing paintings by da Vinci. Suppose I exclaim, "But where's da Vinci?"

Well, in one sense, da Vinci isn't there. He's not personally present. He doesn't coexist with you. He's not in the same place. 

But in another sense, da Vinci is all around me. I'm surrounded by da Vinci. He's in his paintings. Look at his paintings. You will find him  in his paintings. The paintings are visible representations of his invisible mind. I can learn a lot about da Vinci just by viewing his artwork. 

Likewise, I experience C. S. Lewis by reading The Space Trilogy, The Chronicles of Narnia, Collected Letters, A Grief Observed, &c. In fact, I can learn a lot more about Lewis by reading him than I can if I met him face-to-face. If Lewis and I had lunch, if we went for an afternoon walk, that would scratch the surface. 

For that matter, I can learn a lot more about Jesus by reading the NT than I could if Jesus appeared to me. A momentary Christophany would be very inspirational, but not very informative. 


  1. Off topic Steve,
    I was wondering if you or Mr. Bugay have following developments on nun scandals. My family saw something on Cbs where nuns would groom girls and engage in paedophilia.

    1. I think I may have shared that with John.

    2. I've seen it (from Steve) but I haven't really followed it. What questions do you have about it Trent?

  2. The following are some observations for those contemplating apostasy or for present apostates. Non-Christians can benefit from them too.

    1. There are no good evidences that Christianity is false.

    2. There is sufficient evidence that suggests Christianity is true.

    3. There are good reasons for retaining Christian belief even if the evidence for Christianity were equal to those of popular or well known alternative worldviews (e.g. atheism, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism etc.) for prudential reasons based on *subjective* psychological hope and *objective* possibility of an afterlife that compensates for the sufferings, hardships, disappointments, injustices (etc.) in this present Age.

    4. Most other (if not all other) worldviews are inferior in what they offer, or it's the case that those offers are offset by arguments and/or evidences against the truth of those worldviews.

    Regarding #1, even atheist "leader" John W. Loftus has admitted for years (and on multiple occasions) that 1. Christianity has not been absolutely refuted/disproved (i.e. proven false); and 2. despite all that he knows and all the arguments against Christianity, it's still possible that Christianity is true. He thinks the likelihood and probability is less than 1%. But his reasons and arguments for that 1% have been shown multiple times, by many Christian apologists, to be cases of poor reasoning. See for example Steve's books reviews HERE.

    Regarding #2, the cumulative case for theism from various lines of converging and/or intersecting evidences is more than sufficient to justifiably remain Christian. To say the least. That's assuming the evidences are weaker than I believe they actually are. I believe all things, to some stronger or weaker degree, are evidences for God's existence. So that all men (at the very least) ought to know that a good, just, wise and powerful God exists and to whom we are accountable. Not knowing or as least not tentatively/provisionally believing in God makes one either culpably ignorant or culpably indifferent. People OUGHT (morally) to want/desire a God to exist and OUGHT (rationally) to conclude that a God likely exists. Additionally, the Christian position allows for, (IMO) even requires, a doctrine of Divine Hiddenness by which (things like) a Soul Developing/Building theodicy operates, and by which humans are given room to behave in such a way to allow for their judgment and eventual rewards and punishments for virtue and vice. I've explored that more fully in my blogs HERE and HERE.

    Regarding # 3, apologists like Steve have fully addressed this claim. For example, atheism offers no hope of the afterlife and taken consistently undermines joy and happiness in this world. There may be pleasures, but no real joys. Everything is tainted with evanescent transience. The same is true of Buddhism. Plus, there's no good arguments for atheism. Islam has been exposed by many Christian apologists to be lacking in evidence, reason, consistency and moral uprightness. David Wood is just one of many apologists who regularly exposes the impossibility of Islam. Hinduism has various manifestations. Some more pantheistic, other more polytheistic, others more panentheistic etc. Reincarnation has no explanation for an original fall or the source of sin/evil. It can also justify the immoral use of a "karmic credit card" by which one can do all the evil one wants in multiple lifetimes, knowing that one can eventually pay their debts and achieve the goal(s) of reincarnation eventually. There's no real time limit. Nor an account for how it is that Karma is meted out, since there's no personal transcendent God to make sure it's carried out justly.

    1. Regarding #4, few worldviews offer a Universalistic salvific worldview. Some might think universalism is superior to the Christian worldview that teaches a final separation of the good and bad. But inevitably universalism doesn't provide for a coherent understanding of justice, mercy, atonement, grace, rewards, and punishments. As well as suffering from one of the problems of reincarnation. It can justify immorality and wickedness since provides its adherents an excuse to live a wholly wicked life knowing in the end all will be eventually "saved" (whatever that entail in those worldviews). There are no ultimate consequences. Or at least consequences that really matter and which can motivate one to live upright lives for the sake of oneself, others and in honor to a just and merciful God. Since, universalism undermines a coherent conception of God. Assuming there is such a god in the various universalistic worldviews. Most of which have no historical, empirical or rational reasons for which to justifiably subscribe to them. In many cases, universalistic worldviews are hope and wish fulfillment based.

      Continuing with #4, Polytheism doesn't account for the unity, structure and general uniformity of the world or for an objective universally binding moral source, standard or obligation. For example, there's no basis to determine whether the values of a god of War are superior or more pressing upon us than the values of a god of Love. As Ben-Hur and Messala jokingly say, "Down Eros, Up Mars!" Nor can warring gods with disparate values and degrees of power guarantee a final and just Judgment or enduring paradise.

      Pantheism and (strong) panentheism cannot account for the diversity, plurality, individuality and distinctions in the world, and therefore undermine human personality and experience. [Though, some forms of weak panentheism might be compatible with Christianity.]

      Deism undermines morality because it denies that the deity has [at least as yet] revealed itself, and therefore provides reason to doubt it has written a law on our hearts and implanted a conscience within us as Christianity teaches [Romans chapter 1 & 2].

      These are just some of the weaknesses of the alternatives to Christianity. Christianity provides meaning, value, purpose and hope both in this life and for all eternity in the next. As well as making sense of the world in the way C.S. Lewis succinctly put it, "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."

    2. typo correction:

      I wrote: "Regarding #2, the cumulative case for theism from various lines of converging and/or intersecting evidences is more than sufficient to justifiably remain Christian."

      I should have wrote: "Regarding #2, the cumulative case for theism [AND CHRISTIANITY] from various lines of converging and/or intersecting evidences is more than sufficient to justifiably remain Christian."

      See for example Steve's blogs that I've linked to HERE.

  3. Two things stand out in this person's deconversion story. First, it is a relief for him to be free of Christianity. Second, he deconverted after God failed to offer him some kind of personal reassurance. But if it is a relief to be free of Christianity, isn't it also a relief that God allowed the guy to have his freedom by not offering him some sign? Didn't God give this person what he really wanted? This is typical atheist immaturity (not to mention irrationality). The atheist blames God for not providing a sign and then talks about the joys of an atheist life.

    Even now there is the possibility of redemption. If this ex-Christian eventually acquires wisdom, he will appreciate that the "freedom" which he is currently relishing is really an illusion.

  4. If failing to be grounded in orthodox, objective evidence based faith early in life is one of the biggest reasons for apostasy, how do we explain apostasy of those who have the opposite upbringing (ie Matt slicks daughter for example)?

    1. That's not the only reason, though. I've heard that Slick was overly strict with his kids. Also, despite a parent's best efforts kids can still fall in with a bad crowd.

    2. People don't always act on what they know is true or best. Take a junkie. Sometimes they just do what they want to do.

    3. And ultimately, salvation is in God's hands, not ours and not our parents'. Nearly identical circumstances lead one man to faith and drive another away, and we can't see what makes the difference. The latter man "was never of us" (1 John 2:19), which is the foundational "reason" for apostasy.

    4. I'd even go further than Steve and say, "People RARELY act on what they know is true or best." That's why dieting and exercise is so hard for most people. Or going to sleep at a good hour so you'll wake up refreshed.

      Humans have an infinite capacity to ignore reality and assert wishful thinking instead. Which makes perfect sense in Christianity, given the fall of mankind of the effects of sin.

      As an aside, I wonder how precisely this would work if Darwinism were true. That is, it's blatantly obvious how many times people do the very thing that is worst for them while convincing themselves that it is the best thing to do, and yet somehow this is supposed to help the species survive as a whole? I mean, self-delusion HAS to give some kind of advantage in Darwinism or surely those who did not have the traits would have out-bred those with such destructive traits.

  5. If it weren't for the fact that from my conversion I wanted to know if I was believing in something worth believing in maybe I'd be this guy (taking his deconversion at face value). We're even from divorced families (and I certainly lack self-esteem and confidence). I've never really felt apart of any Christian group either. I've only ever had one good Christian friend, maybe two, and it's been a few years since that's occurred.

    On what I feel is a related note, what do you say to someone who stopped praying because it only felt like I was talking to myself? A Christian friend asked recently how my walk with Jesus was, so it's been bothering me.

    1. Sometimes it's easier to pray for others than to pray for ourselves.

      There are different kinds of prayer. We tend to focus on petitionary prayer. That can lead to disappointment. You might shift focus to giving thanks whatever good things happen to you during the week.