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Posts Tagged ‘faith’

I was thinking this morning about something that has been on my mind some over the last couple of months concerning skepticism.  It’s the question of the quality and/or quantity of evidence many of today’s skeptics would need to believe in God.  I have often wondered about the answer to this question.  But something hit me in particular this morning as I was contemplating such an answer.

What is the greatest evidence a person could have that God exists?  I believe this would be a personal encounter with God.  That is, a personal, direct encounter, such as Paul experienced on the road to Damascus in Acts 9, or like Moses experienced on the mountain in Exodus 33.  In such an encounter, one would get some type of sensory experience of God.  It would not be a logical argument, indeed one might not even call such a thing evidence – we may be willing to call such an encounter proof, at least to the person who experienced it.

Now, imagine one of today’s extreme skeptics were to have such an encounter.  I can really only think of two possible outcomes.  In one scenario, the skeptic would see such an encounter as veridical, and would accept that they had an encounter with God.  In the second scenario, the skeptic would attempt to explain the encounter by naturalistic means – a hallucination, or something of that nature.  It is possible that the skeptic could accept that some kind of encounter occurred, but not believe that it was an encounter with God, but ultimately there are still two options – either they accept that there is something they cannot explain in any natural way, or they find some naturalistic response to the encounter.  What I want to show is that neither of these responses allows the naturalistic worldview any benefit.

The first option quite obviously works against any sort of naturalistic skepticism.  If one were to accept such an encounter as supernatural, then clearly they would have a defeater for strict naturalism.  They would have to start opening their mind to different possibilities and even consider more closely other supernatural claims.  The second option is also a problem for naturalism however.  If, despite the greatest possible evidence – indeed, proof – that can be given, the person still decides to reject the possibility of the supernatural, what evidence would ever convince them that they are wrong?  There could be no such evidence.  There is literally nothing even God could do, shy of thwarting their free-will, that would cause them to believe.  They will dwell in skepticism, regardless of the evidence. This latter option is the one I am convinced many modern skeptics would take.

But isn’t this a problem for that type of skepticism?  Doesn’t this show such skepticism to be thoroughly unreasonable?  If no evidence will ever be good enough, then what you really have is a denial of rationality.  You have a blind acceptance of a worldview.  Skeptics today like to talk so much about how odd faith is, but they are so blissfully unaware of the extremes of their own faith.

At this point, some skeptics might say that if God were to give them such an encounter, then they would believe.  But in that case, they have already accepted the supernatural as possible, in which case they must take more seriously the claims of those who say they have encountered the supernatural.   But this is exactly the point – the same skeptic who says they would accept a personal encounter with God as proof will quickly determine supposed naturalistic causes for the encounters of everyone else!  So why should I believe them when they say they would accept a personal encounter as evidence?  The double standard here is staggering, but this is the unfortunate two-faced nature of the logic behind much of today’s skepticism.

This is just one of many reasons that the extreme skepticism of today needs to be cast aside.  Unfortunately, when I say this, many skeptics automatically assume I am saying it should be exchanged for gullibility.  This is just another example of the absurd mentality they hold.  I am not endorsing the idea that we simply accept everything everyone in the world claims.  I’m saying to do just what the Bible calls for us to do – take on a reasonable skepticism – or perhaps better said, let us take on an open mind and thus search for the truth.  The oft-used verses of Acts 17 are powerful here.

Acts 17:10-12:

“The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue.  Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men” (ESV, emphasis mine)

The Bereans were considered more noble, but for what reason? Because they studied to see if what was being taught was true.  They didn’t just hear the gospel and say “sounds great! let’s go!”  They studied, not just once but many times, and through this found faith.

As it happens, this is where the skeptic prides himself today.  Many take pride, even haughtiness, in their ability to rise above everyone else, to cast off the shackles of religion, to ascend to the highest of intellectual heights!  But this is only a self-deluded facade.  Since when is stubborn mindedness a virtue of knowledge?  When did intellectual double standards become praise worthy?  The extreme skeptic of today is no more intellectual than any of us, and if there is any real shackle in religion, they have only exchanged it for the stockades of foolish, inflexible thinking.

So ultimately, what will convince this extreme skeptics we encounter today?  I’m not sure anything can.  There must first be a paradigm change in their thinking before any evidence can be compelling.  But whether we can compel them or not, we should not be concerned with their attacks.  It only needs to be remembered what Jesus himself said of this way of thinking:

Luke 16:27-31:

“And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house – for I have five brothers – so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’  But Abraham said, ‘ They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’  And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’  He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ ” (ESV)

Surprise, surprise – Jesus was right.

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