Reasonable Enough: Why Reason Does Not Compel Acceptance


It is COMPLETELY WRONG to say that I think atheists or any other non-Christians would agree with me if they would just open up their eyes and see reason.  I do not believe reason could infect someone [profoundly affect someone] so as to compel them to see my position as truth.

I don’t think that at all. It would be equally inaccurate to state that because I have found reasonable evidences for my Christian orthodox faith that I feel I have proven God’s existence. It would be equally misrepresentative to say that I think I’ve proven Christianity. I can’t prove that Christ Jesus rose from the dead, but I do think that I have found a reasonable weight of evidences to suggest that He did. Furthermore, I find it more reasonable to conclude [based on, in brief, the consistently vindicated historical and archaeological accuracy of the Biblical record, the fulfillment of Bible prophecy, the credibility of the Gospel accounts, the agreement of extra-Biblical sources on the events of Christ’s trial, crucifixion under Pontius Pilate and the apostolic church’s conviction that Jesus had in fact risen again and were willing to die for this conviction] that Jesus did in fact live, die by crucifixion under Pontius Pilate, and rise again as promised than to believe to the contrary. It cannot be understated that this event, this resurrection, is the lynchpin of Christendom. It is the one belief upon which the entire rest of our doctrine and faith depend.

I’ve elaborated on the evidence for the resurrection and related issues here: https://siriusknotts.wordpress.com/2008/02/06/resurrection-apologetics/

You see, the issue isn’t proof. The applications of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and the headache of epistemology aside, it’s really impossible to prove anything with absolute certainty.

 

Even the scientific method has its limitations:

 First, we must concede that though we strive to minimize their influence, our personal and cultural beliefs influence our perceptions, interpretations and even our methodology.

Second, we may only apply the scientific method to what is observable, testable, repeatable and falsifiable. We cannot apply it to the past, only to present phenomenon.

Third [and lastly for sake of brevity], it deals in probabilities only; some things are so observably probable under repeated experience that they constitute a law, but such probability will not prevent the possibility of the exception.

But men need something to hang their hats on. Skepticism nor agnosticism will do for the thinking man [though Shermer makes a valiant effort of doubting as much as he can!] Like Descartes, they wonder that they think at all and what it all means, but they do not doubt that they are THINKING and that they ARE, thinking. Man therefore seeks to make sense of his universe, how he came to be and why and all that. Essentially, he is looking for a theory of everything, a grand unified theory that explains it all, a terminus to causation and an explanation for the effects all rolled into one. This theory of everything will be either supernatural, natural or antinatural. I don’t have much respect for those who prescribe to the whole New Age “it’s all spiritual” “it’s all god” Church of Oprah sort of antinaturalism nor the “everything is an illusion” schtick. Pantheism, Christian Science, Buddhism… ugh. I try to be gracious, but – come on! – “suffering is just an illusion” is just denialism. You’re all gods? No wonder the universe is so messed up with such an array of impotent wannabe deities running amock! Where’s the rationalism in those approaches?

An aside: I actually have more respect for atheism than I do either skepticism [We can’t know anything] or agnosticism [We can’t know if God exist] — and apatheism [I don’t really care if God exists or not] is just a bunch of junior high kids flipping rational thought the proverbial bird. If you’re afraid you can’t know anything for sure, you can at least find out whether it’s probable. And if you suspect a God might probably exist, it’s reasonable to examine the evidence to see if the evidence is compelling and what that God might expect from you!

Onward then.

Rather than seeing reason as a means of compelling others to see the truth of my beliefs, I see it in a complimentary way. Faith is bolstered by reason, by evidences, but reason cannot cause faith. Why? Well, because faith has an element of will to it. We choose to believe. We choose not to believe: we reject things that don’t fit the bias of our paradigm. We might examine evidences by reason, but we choose to believe both in the validity of reason and the probability that it has led us to the most probable truth.

Now, is this just a matter of personal opinion? Not really. No. Why not? It’s a matter of what paradigm is most probable or most reasonable. I might personally believe that Christian orthodoxy is the most reasonable, but it is NOT my opinion or my personal conclusions, if you will, that matters in this investigation, but rather whether Christian orthodoxy, being a truth claim held by many, many others besides myself, both historically and in contemporary times, is a better fit for the evidence than the truth claim of atheism. [There may be ideosynchratic interpretations to your atheism, but that would be a matter of debate between two atheists, just as differences in minor points of doctrine are debateable between Christians.]

That’s an important point: This isn’t my opinion versus your opinion.  This is whether there is better reason to believe in the truth claim of orthodox Christian theism versus the truth claim of atheism, or any other-ism for that matter. Now we both might be tempted to decide [faith/will] that our truth claims are reasonable enough and, not being gifted with omnipotence, I’m afraid we do have to come to a point where we say, yes, ok, I’ll hang my hat on this. But are we either fearless enough to compare whether God is God or Baal is god, so to speak, or honest enough to admit that we’re quite comfortable with the notion that we’ve enough evidence to satisfy us no matter what the other fellow has to say?

But how do we decide? We both agree that it must be carefully and rationally done. My orthodoxy compels me to point out that Christendom has always said this on the matter:

[1] That a rejection of Christianity is, in the end, a matter of volition [will] more influenced by the issue of autonomy [doing as I please versus doing as God says] and/or morality [arguably the same thing in this context];

[2] that intellectual objections may be offered but serve merely to buttress their volitional obstinancy;

[3] that ample evidence of God’s existence and attributes are found in His Creation and in moral law;

[4] that those who seek God with their whole heart will find Him [an honest search will lead to Him];

[5] that God grants faith as a grace;

[6] that it is impossible to please God without faith, because you must believe that He exists and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him; and

[7] that whoever will believe on Christ and His literal, physical resurrection from the dead will be saved.

In other words, the investigation of Christendom, from the Christian POV, requires an engaged, honest approach. But reason alone will not get you there. In the end, you will have to make a choice, which is to say you will have to utilize faith, whether to accept or reject it.

-Sirius Knott

Advertisements

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Buddy Helms says:

    Tony,

    Here I go preaching to the choir again. I totally agree that the issue is not proof. You nailed it. It is virtually impossible by scientific means and methods to prove anything in the past, and all the logic and argument in the world will not convince an atheist or and agnostic that their understanding of history is incorrect. People believe what they want to believe, but when we speak of the past we must remember that it does require belief. There are revisionist historians all over the place trying to rewrite history to fit their beliefs. This doesn’t change history, but it can change young people’s perception of history. Evolution has become accepted tradition, and traditions are difficult to change.

    It looks like God had a plan for people to have to rely on faith, but there’s more. The spiritual side of this can’t be ignored. Jesus said that no man could come to him except the Father draw him. People seem to believe that man is a rational animal, but is that true? Men are constantly acting irrationally. It has been repeatedly pointed out that many times it is religion that causes man to act irrationally, but as you no doubt know, God does not like religion and that’s not what he offers in Christ. He offers a relationship. A person is unable to completely understand until they are born of the Spirit, but in order to be born of the Spirit, they must repent and believe. Repentance and belief require faith, and even this faith comes from God. A person can respond with the faith that God provides or not, and until they do, they will never completely understand. Even if they do respond with faith due to the work of the Holy Spirit, they may still doubt creation because of the influence of years of evolutionary teaching and indoctrination. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. The best that we can do seems to be to demonstrate that we have a reasonable faith, but some people will never believe because belief in Christ requires admitting one’s on inadequacy. People have to give up control and their own personal godhood. The Holy Spirit must bring them to this understanding, and even when He does, they still have to accept it all by faith without complete and total proof, but evolutionists have to accept their stance by faith as well without complete and total proof. We seem to all be in the same boat, but we don’t know it. When something is constantly proclaimed as scientific fact and repeated over and over to students by authoritarian figures (teachers & professors) in schools that they are required to attend, what will they ultimately believe? When only one side of an argument is repeated with no real scientific proof it is not science. It is propaganda and opinion. Why do you suppose that evolutionists are so adamant about preventing the mention of even the remotest possibility of intelligent design? Could it be that people get angry when their beliefs and traditions are challenged? Keep up the good work, Tony. You can’t win them all, but if you win one, it will be worth it.

    The bottom line is that everyone has to believe something, even if it is nothing. Since we are unable to know everything, there are some things that we have to take by faith. Christianity is not a blind faith. There is a mountain of evidence. Just read a few books by Josh McDowell, Norman Geisler, or Dr. Henry Morris. In the natural world, we are all looking at the same evidence. Preconceptions and prejudices determine how a person perceives the evidence and only the Spirit of God can change a heart through the application of God’s Word. People do not have the option to open their eyes and see your point of view because they are blinded by pseudoscience, tradition, and sin. Keep up the good work, brother, and let God give the increase.

    Buddy

  2. knight says:

    You’re using the word “proof” wrong. It means evidence that convinces, just because you’re not personally 100% convinced doesn’t mean no one else is. I think you’re confusing the ability to show evidence for every single event for whatever with the word “proof”, they don’t mean the same thing.

    You’re usage is a common error made by non-Christians. Also, the Bible does say you should be 100% convinced and not doubt, and that the evidence is sufficient for what it says. You don’t need evidence for every single little thing, like where Jesus was as 3 P.M. 8 B.C., or what he ate that day to know that he’s telling the truth about whatever he says. As for the Bible teaching to go by witnesses, it doesn’t say you must believe whatever witnesses say (when they aren’t talking about something the Bible teaches.) Like say two witnesses say John Bob Blah stole a candybar, and you the judge hears it, you don’t have to believe it, but the Bible teaches you have to act based on what the witnesses say (not that you can’t check to see if they are lying or if there is conflict of interest), and if they are trustworthy you have to punish. I bring that up because some people might confuse witnesses for Biblical things with non-Biblical things like that and think that whatever witnesses say is true and that you should be convinced by it, which is wrong. Again, you should believe the witnesses of the Bible 100%. I also don’t mean you can’t be certain for things about non-Biblical things, the Bible says you can, like determining if someone is saved or not (though it says some people have that ability especially as a gift, so it may not be easy for all to make judgments like that).

    And remember, the Bible says you must have faith that God exists and NOT doubt (at all), to please him, so, you are to be 100% certain that he exists. You are to be 100% certain that his laws are right too, like that it’s wrong to lie and murder. When it says to have faith in whatever, it’s talking about faith in what you can’t sense perfectly or at all with certain biodevices, like your eyes etc., to believe something that you can sense entirely with all your senses; He’s not asking you to do something irrational or unreasonable or illogical or mindless or mystical or magical as something think when they think of the word faith or having faith. If he was asking for that, then why even bother giving us “evidence”? All he would need to do is say, “I am so and so, you’re a sinner, believe so and so, do so and so based on that belief.” He doesn’t give evidence for nothing.

  3. Jason says:

    Just wanted to comment on the following statement you made:
    “If you’re afraid you can’t know anything for sure, you can at least find out whether it’s probable”

    I’ve also found some value in determining and acknowledging just how well one can find out by various means whether something is probable, particularly when it comes to either history or prediction, which although you rightly point out that history is not the domain of science, certain claims made in historical texts can be evaluated to some degree based on recent scientific observations. However even confidence in this ability is subject to decay the further back in history we go (we must extrapolate from data that has been recorded more recently, and that extrapolation statistically has a limited range that it can be applied with confidence). So sometimes, the best you can say is ‘based on what we know from the last 100 years, we extrapolate that this is how it would have been 5000 years ago, and there is a 86.9% (or whatever, I’ve not done the math for this length of time) margin for error (i.e. we can really only have about 13.1% confidence that everything we know accurately tells us what was). It can be a freeing exercise to face the reality of how little/much we can figure out by observation, and that the testimony of someone who claims to have been there and whose other claims have proven trustworthy, well we can have a bit more confidence in that. That is very different than throwing up the hands and saying “we can’t know anything” – I’m talking about taking an honest humble/truthful look at what exactly can we know by mere observation and how confident we can be in that knowledge.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s