Are You A True Skeptic?

What arguments do you accept? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Just recently, I was in a Facebook group and I saw someone share something from Lawrence Krauss claiming that there were several divine figures at the time of Jesus born of virgins (And I do affirm the virgin birth) who died and rose again. It didn’t take long for a bunch of us to show that this was wrong. What was most amazing to me was that this was accepted.

What matters to me about this is how quickly people who call themselves skeptics will cease to be skeptics. This isn’t to say that their skepticism of Christianity is necessarily unreasonable. Some skepticism is good. The claims we make are pretty intense after all and should be backed by evidence. The problem is that a scholar says something that supports Christianity or shows an attack on i is false and that’s questioned, but show someone who attacks it and that’s an immediate Gospel truth.

I also think it’s important to point out that we Christians can do the same. There are many Christians who will share something immediately if it supports Christianity, but it turns out to be false. This is also true in the area of politics. Many people will share something that supports their political viewpoint without checking up on it.

After the Florida shooting, there were news stories going around about eighteen school shootings taking place this year. Some of you might be surprised by that news. You never heard about all of these school shootings. There’s a good reason for that. They didn’t really happen, at least not the way you would think. One such school shooting was when a man was in the parking lot of an Elementary school that was closed at the time and committed suicide with a gun. Somehow, that qualifies as a school shooting.

Many of you know that I’m a political conservative, yet I have taken enough conservatives to task for sharing false stories about political opponents. Our side is not helped by sharing stories that are false and we damage our reputation by sharing those stories.

The solution to all of this is really simple. Test everything. Check it all out. If you are a Christian, don’t damage your reputation by sharing things that are false. It shows people you are gullible and undermines your witness to Christianity.

If you are a skeptic of Christianity, you should also want to be taken seriously. It’s not going to be happening by sharing copycat myth ideas or even worse, ideas that Jesus never existed. No. Carrier is not the most awesome New Testament scholar of all time. Most of us will actually discount you pretty quickly just for mentioning Carrier.

Everyone should agree to this. Test all things. If you’re a Christian and a skeptic does disprove something you believe to be true, accept it. If you’re a skeptic and a Christian disproves something for you, do likewise. Of course, you’re more prone to accept ideas that already fit with your worldview, but watch your own bias first. If we want to have more informed discussions, it starts with us.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Skepticism Is Not An Argument

Do you need a reason for your doubt? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Many times I get caught up in debates on miracles and that leads to an automatic skepticism by many people. After all, we live in an age of science and in this age of science, we know things the ancients didn’t know. Therefore, we know that miracles don’t happen.

I like to point out to these people that they even knew back then that dead people stay dead, people don’t walk on water, food doesn’t instantly multiply to feed 5,000+ people, it’s not expected for blind people to see and paralyzed people to walk, and of course, virgins don’t give birth. (Although I do affirm the virgin birth.) If people insist at this point, I ask when it was that science made these great discoveries that they didn’t know about. It’s also helpful to ask which branch of science has disproven miracles.

The problem that often comes up is that someone will just say I’m a skeptic but without giving any basis for their own position. If we as Christians are often obligated to give a reason for the hope that lies within us, why should our intellectual opponents not give a reason for the doubt that lies within them. Please note that I am not saying all doubt is wrong. I am suggesting instead that we talk about a reasonable doubt.

For instance, let’s suppose you say that you will not believe in miracles because you have never experienced one. Of course, if you did experience one and you knew it, you would likely believe in miracles, but if you haven’t, do you really want to say the only way you will believe in a miracle is if you yourself witness one? If that’s the case, then no amount of arguing and persuasion is going to work with you. You’ve already decided at the outset a miracle can’t happen because you’ve never experienced it. (It’s also interesting that other people’s experience in the case of miracles is invalid, but your experience of not having one is completely allowable!)

It also won’t help then if it’s automatically decided that any story that you hear is just someone being gullible or mistaken or lying. No doubt, people are often mistaken about miracles, but the argument against miracles depends on every single case being an error in some way. Chesterton told us years ago that the theist believes in the miracle, rightly or wrongly, because of the evidence. The skeptic disbelieves, rightly or wrongly, because he has a dogma against them.

So let’s take a work like Craig Keener’s massive two volumes on miracles documenting miracles done all over the world. For the skeptic, every single miracle in there has to be false. For myself, all of them could be false and I could still have a case for miracles because I have arguments for theism and I have arguments for the resurrection.

So when pressed, what needs to be asked is why is someone being skeptical? What is behind the skepticism? Note also this can go both ways. Christians can be unreasonable in their skepticism of positions that disagree with them. I do not encourage Christians to say you will only disbelieve in the resurrection if you see the bones of Jesus. If Jesus did not rise, his bones are likely long gone and even if they aren’t, you really don’t have much way of identifying them. Set the bar reasonable. I just ask for a better explanation for the rise of the early church than the one the church itself gave that better explains the data.

Skepticism can be good. We should not be gullible and credulous, but at the same time, we need to be reasonable even in skepticism. If we demand our own personal experience, we’re not really entering into the discussion fairly and saying that intellectual arguments won’t convince us. That’s hardly being reasonable.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Deeper Waters Podcast 9/27/2014: Truth In A Culture of Doubt

What’s coming up on this week’s episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Bart Ehrman is becoming a much more common name around the world and this includes even in Christian households. Unfortunately, there are still several in the church who don’t know about who he is and the reality is that if they do not know now, they will surely be knowing in the future, most likely when their children come home from college and announce that they’re no longer Christians because they don’t believe in the Bible.

To those who haven’t read the other side, Ehrman’s case can seem to be a strong presentation, but is it really? The authors of “Truth In A Culture Of Doubt” say it isn’t, and one of them will be my guest to talk about it. He’s been on here before and it’s a pleasure to welcome back to the Deeper Waters Podcast, Dr. Darrell Bock.

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“Darrell L. Bock is Senior Research Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas. He also serves as Executive Director of Cultural Engagement for the Seminary’s Center for Christian Leadership. His special fields of study involve hermeneutics, the use of the Old Testament in the New, Luke-Acts, the historical Jesus, gospel studies and the integration of theology and culture. He has served on the board of Chosen People Ministries for over a decade and also serves on the board at Wheaton College. He is a graduate of the University of Texas (B.A.), Dallas Theological Seminary (Th.M.), and the University of Aberdeen (Ph.D.). He has had four annual stints of post–doctoral study at the University of Tübingen, the second through fourth as an Alexander von Humboldt scholar (1989-90, 1995-96, 2004-05, 2010-2011). He also serves as elder emeritus at Trinity Fellowship Church in Richardson, Texas, is editor at large for Christianity Today, served as President of the Evangelical Theological Society for the year 2000-2001, and has authored over thirty books, including a New York Times Best Seller in non-fiction and the most recent release, Truth Matters, a response to many issues skeptics raise about Christianity in the public square. He is married to Sally and has two daughters (both married), a son, two grandsons and a granddaughter.”

We’ll be discussing many of the works of Ehrman and the problems in them. This will include works such as “God’s Problem”, “Misquoting Jesus”, “How Jesus Became God”, “Lost Christianities”, “Jesus Interrupted”, and “Forged.” We’ll be talking about how Ehrman is quite a skilled communicator but he unfortunately only gives one side of the argument on a regular basis and does not interact with the best opposition against his viewpoint.

If you have a child you plan to send to college one day, you owe it to yourself to listen to this program to learn about the work of Ehrman and how best you can answer it. Ehrman will only give one side of the argument. Make sure you know the other side of the argument just as well. Please be looking for the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast to show up in your ITunes feed.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Book Plunge: How Do We Know

What do I think of Foreman and Dew’s book on epistemology? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Foreman and Dew have written this in order to explain epistemology to people who have never really considered it and in our day and age, it’s more necessary than ever. After all, you have people like Peter Boghossian out there wanting to train up “street epistemologists” to deconvert Christians from their faith. In addition to that, there is a rampant scientism in our society that says science is the way to know the truth. If what you say is not scientific, then it is not a fact.

So how is it that we do know anything at all and what is knowledge? Naturally, you won’t find a comprehensive refutation of positions in this work. Instead, it’s more to get you thinking about what the different positions are. The authors themselves do not come down on either side in the debate. After reading it, I cannot tell you what position either one of them holds.

The authors also go through the classical problems in studies of epistemology. One such example that will be well-known to students of philosophy is the Gettier Problem. (To which, I remember when this was discussed in my epistemology class one of my classmates immediately asked the professor about Gettier. His question? “Did he get tenure?” Yes. He definitely did get tenure after that.)

Gettier’s problem was to show that you could have a belief that was justified and that was true, but even then that might not be enough to say that you had knowledge. This is problematic since the prior definition of knowledge has been justified true belief, which means that now philosophers are looking to see if a fourth item might need to be added to the list.

Those dealing with new atheist types will be pleased to see the authors make a statement about faith and how faith is not a way of knowing but is rather a response of trust to what one is shown to be true. Of course, we seriously doubt that Peter Boghossian and others like him will pay any attention to anything that goes against their beliefs.

Along those lines, there is also a section on whether one can know through divine revelation which includes a short apologetic for Christianity. The authors are both Christians and do hold that divine revelation can be a valid way to possess knowledge.

If there’s a concern I have with the book, I would have liked to have seen more interaction with the medieval period. Too often we talk about Plato and Aristotle and then jump ahead to Descartes. A few times Aquinas is cited but not often. I do not remember Augustine being cited but that could have been something I overlooked. There were plenty of great thinkers as well in the medieval period and it does help to see how we got from the ancient to the modern era.

Despite this one misgiving, I find that this book will be an excellent start for those wanting to learn about epistemology. You won’t walk away with a firm conclusion most likely, but you will walk away hopefully knowing that you need to look.

In Christ,
Nick Peters