Thursday, October 22, 2009

Theistic Arguments:
Reasonable Expectations

The "straw that broke the camel's back" for this post was this comment over at Common Sense Atheism:

Hey don’t you know Bill Craig and Plantinga have proven Christian theism?
Now, I love those guys; and I fashion myself as a Christian apologist. However, do I think I can prove Christian theism?

No - I cannot. Do I think it is RIGHT? Well, yes -- as my pastor said:
The truth about God, and the truth about the cross, and the truth about the blood of Christ, and the truth about our salvation - are logical, understandable, they are sound, consistent, and are to be appropriated with the human mind through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Some Christians in America have also become anti-intellectual. They will say things like:
  • "Do not try to understand this with your mind - just believe"; or
  • "Faith is not really a reasonable thing"; or
  • "Faith is not intended to be logical"; or
  • "Faith is a leap in the dark"; or
  • "God's thoughts are above our thoughts".
What do all these mean? Does that mean God is not logical? That His logic is different from ours? That He would say 2+2=15; but we cannot understand that so we just have to believe? If you hear something like that you should hear a large warning horn going off somewhere - these things are not true.
Also, for the Christian:
How do we trust the authority of the Bible? Christians are famous for circular reasoning: we believe the Bible is the word of God and study it because in the Bible it says it is the word of God. So, how do we know it is the word of God (without circular reasoning)? This is a question we should be able to answer. Carl went through a period of time in his life during his teenage years when he really began to wonder if it was true or not. He spent about a year and a half trying to figure out whether the Bible was trustworthy or not . . . if you are one of those people who do not know whether they can really trust the Bible - then you need to deal with that first. Do not primarily read the Bible if you do not trust it.
So, I am not saying we are not holders of the truth. However, while we know the truth we are unable to prove it. It is axiomatic for Christians that the truth is going to be ignored:
Romans 1:21-22 For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools
Now, of course, we do not stop talking about the truth just because folks do not listen. What do we expect though? And what does that expectation mean to our "style" when talking about the truth? Frankly, non-Christians generally have as much warrant for their positions as we do - whether they are right or not. They also have the same inability to prove that their conception of God - or the lack of God(s) - is right.

So, none of us can prove we are right; and we mostly all have warranted belief. To me, this means that we have to let Ephesians 4:29-32 guide us
You must let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but only what is beneficial for the building up of the one in need, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. You must put away every kind of bitterness, anger, wrath, quarreling, and evil, slanderous talk. Instead, be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you
and maintain our civility and patience, treat others as we wish to be treated, and wait for when the Holy Spirit softens their hearts.

set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess.
and lower your expectations and relax - it is not us that win people to Christ: it is God.

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How to debate charitably (rules are links to more description of rule):
1. The Golden Rule
2. You cannot read minds
3. People are not evil
4. Debates are not for winning
5. You make mistakes
6. Not everyone cares as much as you
7. Engaging is hard work
8. Differences can be subtle
9. Give up quietly