Monday, 21 June 2010

How does Christianity fit with reason? (5)

We're looking at the moment at how a Christian ought to deal with objections to their faith. In the last entry we saw that a Christian shouldn't abandon their faith at the first sign of contrary evidence. We also considered that it would not be responsible to just ignore allegedly contrary evidence either. So how should a Christian go about tackling this so-called evidence? It is likely that the correct course of action will vary depending on the person.

Ought I go looking for counter-arguments?

In the last entry I remarked that it would be irrational to believe in a flat earth while ignoring any evidence that would suggest that the earth is spherical. Likely you agree. This suggests that when we consider whether or not a belief is true, we should examine what arguments are made against it as well as for it. This is certainly true enough to some extent, but it isn't clear as to exactly what extent we should pursue this. After all, especially with Christianity, there isn't enough time in your life to examine every argument ever made for and against it. As finite beings we are forced to make decisions without maximal information. We can still make sufficiently informed decisions, just not exhaustively informed decisions. As such it will likely be down to the individual as to what amount of objective consideration they feel comfortable with before committing to a belief. But we need to strike a balance between ignoring all counter arguments, and being obsessive over counter-arguments to the point that we never commit to a belief!

Ought I examine every counter-argument myself?

Some objections to Christianity require technical expertise to understand and critically examine. It would likely be quite foolish for a Christian without the relevant expertise to try and confront certain arguments themselves. For instance there are people who claim that archeological evidence has demonstrated that the Exodus account in the Bible never happened. If I was going to try and answer this objection I'd have to learn about acheological methodology and become familiar with all the facts relevant to the argument. This could potentially take a very long time, and perhaps I wouldn't be a very competent archeologist anyway. It would be more reasonable for me to concede that I just don't have the expertise to deal with the objection myself. It would be more wise to see what a Christian archeologist says about the matter. Although it can be frustrating, Christians and atheists alike often have to depend on experts because we could never learn everything there is to know ourselves.

If we aren't appropriately equipped to deal with an objection and yet we try and deal with it anyway, we risk being persuaded by a bad argument. If I don't know about correct archeological methodology, how could I know whether the objection is a valid one or not? Sometimes you hear stories about Christians who study say, philosophy, and then loose their faith. I suspect that in many of these cases, Christians who weren't used to thinking philosophically took things to be problematic for their faith which actually aren't, and can be demonstrated as such with proper understanding.

The Christian community should value its experts and seek to support them so that they can in turn help the Christian community as a whole by defending the faith and helping Christians work through their intellectual doubts.

Dealing with doubt

On the subject of doubt, the last few entries have covered a lot of ground which is relevant for Christians dealing with intellectual doubts about their faith. If you're a Christian struggling with doubt and you'd like to know a bit more about how to understand it and deal with it, I highly recommend reading this free online book, Dealing With Doubt by Gary Habermas. In addition please feel free to contact me via the form at the bottom of the page should you want to discuss your struggles with doubt. I'm no stranger to it!

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