Monday, February 15, 2010

Can we "stand on the promises" logically?‏

This week, Answers in Genesis released a slightly shorter but oh-so-sweet email newsletter. It's such a privilege to be on this mailing list because it's really become the highlight of my week. I feel like I barely have to comment on it at all. Any rational person will just stare and laugh. Nonetheless, let's begin the breakdown.
When explaining their beliefs, Christians often feel they must first prove the Bible or prove the existence of God. This approach reveals that they do not yet understand the Bible’s approach, known as presuppositional apologetics.
If I recall correctly, the creationist Eric Hovind likes to talk a lot about "evolutionists'" presuppositions about the theory, stating that they start off assuming that it's true and look for evidence to support it. (We all know that's not the case and that's not how science works, but let's not focus on that now.) It's actually funny how AiG is now trying to turn the tables on us and tell us that this is how Christian apologetics are supposed to work. However, this wouldn't be the first time that two Christian ministries tell us completely opposite things.
Presuppositions are simply beliefs that everyone has that affect how they think, view the world, interpret evidence, and read the Bible. Apologetics is a reasoned defense of beliefs. So presuppositional apologetics is a reasoned defense of Christian beliefs based on recognizing our presuppositions.
Presuppositions are not merely beliefs, they are beliefs that rest upon assumptions. Clearly, if this is how far back Christian apologetics has been set back - that they must now rely on assumptions - the surely, they must be a dying cause. However, it's difficult for me to tell what sense of assumption they're talking about here, so I'll have to give them some benefit of the doubt. If they perhaps mean that the presuppositions are things that people believe prior to engaging in a discussion, then I can accept that as somewhat reasonable.
For instance, our presupposition is that God exists and He has given us His Word (the Bible) that is absolute truth. So we use the Bible as the basis for how to think, interpret evidence, explain the world around us, and read the Bible. An atheist’s presupposition will most likely be that there is no God and that truth is relative. An atheist believes that man decides truth, and so he thinks, interprets evidence, and views the world and Bible accordingly.
Whoa, whoa now. Slow down. Why start throwing out falsities right at the end of your letter? I already had enough to deal with here. If you're a Christian trying to dialogue with a non-believer, you simply can't rely on your presuppositions to be convincing. Maybe Christians don't understand this - after all, I get quoted plenty of Bible verses that claim I'm wrong and am destined to an eternal hell, but why should I care? If you're a Christian, my quoting the Koran or Vedas to you won't be any kind of effective. Why do you think it will be any different in my case? It may be tough, but you have to dig deeper until you can arrive at something upon which to debate that does not rely upon mutually conflicting presuppositions. You just won't get anywhere otherwise.

But really, why do butcher the atheist's position so terribly? Most atheists don't believe there is no god, they just lack beliefs in any. There's a difference (though it's probably irrelevant to you). I don't know of any atheist that think the truth is relative, but if one ever did say that, I'd ask him, "Is that statement absolutely or only relatively true?" That's a self-defeating statement. I believe the difference between Christianity and atheism is the idea that we can attain absolute truth. Simply because it exists does not mean we can always know it, and the fact that we don't know everything about anything means that we probably never do. What I think is truth is based on empirical evidence confirmed by other unbiased sources - not the books of the Bible which were written in a time of mass ignorance. (Though I don't mean to imply that the Bible is totally ignorant on all issues, because it's not. There are good things to be found in it, to be sure, but there are also many bad and incorrect things.)

I don't believe that man decides truth any more than rocks define it. Truth is "what is," and what is, is, independent of us wanting to believe it (or being able to know or even understand the concept of any arbitrarily chosen truth). No, Christians are the ones that rely on man to decide truth. Men wrote the bible and men are responsible for what is inside it, in every way. Slapping the label "divinely inspired" on the cover and calling it inerrant and forever true (no matter what the opposition) is a novel idea, but doesn't make it any more true than a documentary with Michael Moore's signature on it.


Brett said...

"When explaining their beliefs, Christians often feel they must first prove the Bible or prove the existence of God. This approach reveals that they do not yet understand the Bible’s approach, known as presuppositional apologetics."

I think that there is actually something to take from this, but we are interpreting it in completely different ways. To me, the Bible (or any other spiritual book for that matter) is a collection of thoughts. In many ways, it is the same as this blog that you keep. Christians were not the first people to have thoughts about creation, but they came to some sort of agreement and wrote it down. I think it is up to the person to take what they want from these ideas - the ones from the Bible and the ones from your blog, for example.

Some people use these thoughts for guidance in their life, some people live by the book. Personally, I find that keeping an open mind is the best approach. I do not look for an answer because I know the answer will present itself one day. Is this logic much different from yours or Christians?

Drew Reagan said...

I would agree with you about keeping an open mind. The bible, like many holy books, does contain wisdom from people that lived a long time ago and went through many of the same social things that we will. But it also contains some things I don't think are good to follow or things I don't think are true.

Christians are all over the place on this one. Some are pretty liberal and take your approach, gleaning what they think is appropriate. Some are fundamentalists and think that every word came from the mouth of god and are expected to believe and live all of it. Really, truth should be truth no matter where you find it and if there is one good way of doing things or some important thing to know, you'll be able to find it without using the bible. Except of course, for god. Or at least Yahweh.

But I find it hard to believe that if a god exists, he would hide himself from us, expect us to believe despite evidence, and not give us a second chance when we die when we actually know he exists.

Brett said...

I have had all of these thoughts at some point in my life. Faith is a difficult concept to grasp, especially because we are taught to think logically for the majority of our lives. Faith and logic are contradicting, so it is hard for some to understand the balance.

I think this is especially true for people like us: scientists, mathematicians, engineers, etc... We are taught our whole lives to comprehend concepts in a logical way - and it always seems to make sense. We always have evidence to back to things we are taught, so it is easy to believe that science/math/engineering is true.

To me, faith is understanding that we do not understand. It is an acceptance of the things we cannot control. I think the only way to explain to questions you are having - "But I find it hard to believe that if a god exists, he would hide himself from us, expect us to believe despite evidence, and not give us a second chance when we die when we actually know he exists." - is with strong faith. You have to define faith for yourself. Once you do, your path will not seem quite as blurred.

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