Wednesday, September 12, 2012

FacePalm of the Day - Debunking Christianity: Honest Christians, Answer This Question!

For once John Loftus starts off with a good question but then goes off the rails very quickly.

I'd like for you to be honest with your faith here. No delusional sidesteps, okay? Answer a question having to do with what came first, your faith or your understanding. As we know, Anselm argued that "faith seeks understanding."

This is indeed important - too much so to be glossed over.  The problem is that such a discussion is problematic because of Loftus' ignorance and assumptions. Bottom line: he doesn't know what "faith" is and that has been documented many many times. What he can't understand is that in Christianity faith and understanding are not experienced at a single time but its over a lifetime. Your understanding and your faith grow. Christianity is supposed to be a living relationship with God. As that relationship grows, so does your faith and your understanding. Faith is a gift from God. Your understanding doesn't justify faith. Faith comes first and then you begin to understand what happened to you.

That's the same stance other believers view their own religions. First they believe, then they seek to justify it by understanding it. Did you reasonably examine your faith before you adopted it? Or, did you try to justify it post hoc, after believing it?

Some people do years of research and examination before coming to put their faith in God.  Not me. As soon as I understood the Gospel, I found that I believed God. I have spent years since then examining and probing and I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing better than what God has offered and I have gratefully accepted. I have not justified my faith. My faith is borne out of a growing relationship with God. I trust God because God has completely and totally been shown to be trustworthy in dealing with me. I'm not saying that I completely understand God and everything about Him. I don't. The finite can't contain the infinite. But as time goes on - more and more is understood by me - as God guides me through. Paul explained this best - that they who  God predestined believe.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[i] have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. - Romans 8:28-30

Did I see that when I first got saved? Nope.   I had to grow into that. Perfect understanding is not necessary for salvation. It's based on your faith in Jesus' finished work on your behalf. 

9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. - 1 Corinthians 13:9-12

My claim is that justifying something post hoc is an unreasonable way to examine a religion. It's something the Outsider Test for Faith finds to be an inconsistent double standard.

Hmmm. Interesting. Might need to throw out the scientific method then. Look, a hypothesis is just a belief based on evidence understood at the time the hypothesis is being made. No one suggests a hypothesis expecting it to be wrong. This is a poor analogy but we constantly make assumptions hoping that it's true and sometimes we don't understand them but later test those ideas to see if they are true. Biblical faith is different because it is based on a relationship. Scientific inquiry is not base on the relationship of the scientist with the field or the subjects under scrutiny.

For we know from cognitive studies that the strong human propensity is to unreasonably justify what we believe after the fact. We do this in order to resolve the cognitive dissonance in our heads (that uncomfortable feeling we have from for holding two contrary propositions at the same time).

So how does Loftus avoid this in his atheism? How does anyone? In order to be a Christian, one does not have to hold two contrary propositions, but people who deny intelligent design too when they look at DNA, for example.

Here's how cognitive dissonance works. You made a public stance in a confession for Jesus. Then you come across disconfirming evidence. What do you do? You already stated publicly you believed. So you must make a choice, either recant and be embarrassed for making a rash commitment, or find some way to escape the force of that disconfirming evidence. Sometimes that escape hole is so small only an ant could crawl through it, but when it comes to faith that'll do just fine.

"Disconfirming evidence"? Funny. Neither Loftus nor anyone else have managed to provide that, but to provide faulty conclusions based on unprovable assumptions. They should be embarrassed and repent,  but if they did, they would be Christians.

In any case, this question has two aspects to it. The first aspect is chronological, the second one is logical.

1) Chronologically, which came first? Did you believe in the historical evidence for the resurrection before considering the evidence for your particular God's existence? Or, did you first believe in a deist creator god and then study the various theistic revelations to decide which one of them had the most evidence for it? If you start with a God other than the Christian one you probably would not believe Jesus bodily arose from the dead from the paltry evidence. Furthermore, was your religious experience prior to examining your religious choice? Did you come to the conclusion that your faith was properly basic, that the basis for your faith was in the self-justifying inner witness of the Holy Spirit, that your religious experience was veridical, before or after trying to justify it?

The God of the Bible is not deistic. I've never accepted a God that just made everything and never intervenes nor interact. That's not the God I believe in and there is paltry evidence for that. Here is an example of cognitive dissonance: Accepting the work of the Holy Spirit and the Resurrection with deism. Won't work. I thought Loftus said he understood his own argument. I think all religious experiences must be judged in light of scripture - they can't be in contradiction and when they are it's my religious experience that must give way. 

2) Logically, as you seek to evangelize others, what do you think works the best to bring about a conversion? Some evangelists think that all you need to do is preach the evangel, the kerygma, the gospel story. Barth and Bultmann argued for this in their own ways, and most street evangelists do it. Just present the four gospel "facts":
* God loves me
* I have sinned
* Jesus died for me
* I need to decide to live for God
What evidence is presented apart from quoting the Bible? The only evidence that resonates with us is that we all feel guilty. So? The solution is presented as fact, leaving out any discussion about how Jesus is a God-man, how his death atones for our sins, and how we can know he arose bodily from the dead in the ancient superstitious past.

I disagree with the fourth point because if you agree with the first three, the fourth automatically follows and it's not against your will but you can't take credit for your faith. God changes you so that you can believe. While the nature of Jesus is important and questions about how atonement works or how the Resurrection was done are interesting, it should be pointed out that understanding these things are not necessary for salvation. Because of who I am, I ask such things because I want to know, but that does not make me better or more saved than a believer who doesn't. Some questions we don't have answers for and some we do. It is more than a little dishonest to claim that we have no evidence validating the Bible, when we do. Pretending that it should be thrown out just because you don't like it is really terrible.

The fact is that in a largely Christian culture the psychological pull of the story does all of the work. In a different religious culture the pull of their own stories do all of the work.

Loftus is making a huge mistake. If he's right then no one would be leave the religious traditions of birth and culture for another - yet it happens often.

My claims are therefore twofold: 1) Chronologically, nothing but examining your religious faith before you adopted it has much force given the strong human propensity to unreasonably justify what we believe after the fact, and 2) The psychological pull of a religious story is not a good reason to adopt one's faith.

No one becomes a born-again Christian due to the psychological pull of the story. Loftus' atheism is born out of his thinking that God should have kept him from sinning. That's an unreasonable justification for his rejection of God. I have no problem with the OTF, I just have yet to see Loftus apply it to Christianity as he says it should be applied. He should try it on what he believes today.


More like a hyphen.

So Christian, be honest here, at least with yourselves, and do the thing you failed to do from the beginning. Look at your faith as a non-believer would, as if you were not raised in a Christian culture. Take the Outsider Test for Faith where you examine your own faith as an adult this time, by doing what you have done with all other cultural religions. Force your own faith to have the burden of proof. Treat it with the skepticism of an outsider. See what you get. It's the only honest way to know.

The Bible more than holds up to proof. I have yet to see Loftus correctly examine Christianity by correctly representing God. If you are going to judge Christianity then at least get what it teaches correct.

Debunking Christianity: Honest Christians, Answer This Question!
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