Skepticism and Gullibility

Which side has them? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently on the Unbelievable Facebook group, there has been a discussion about skepticism and gullibility. The idea is some people are rational and thus skeptical of the fantastic stories in the Bible and God decides to give them Hell for this whereas as the gullible Christians believe everything they read and get rewarded. Some of you are already seeing problems with this.

At the start, it assumes that if someone believes the Bible they must be gullible. Now we could say if someone was skeptical of the Bible, they are a skeptic, but there is a rational skepticism and an irrational skepticism. It is also possible to be a Christian and also have a skeptical mindset. I would describe myself as one such person.

For an irrational skepticism, I was in a discussion not too long ago with someone on Facebook who was making statements about the invalidity of prayer, so I pointed him to Candy Gunther-Brown’s work. He insisted I didn’t know what peer-review was to which I gave a definition. He then wanted to know this work was peer-reviewed. I pointed out it was published by Harvard University Press which does peer-review and that wasn’t enough.

I then emailed the author who told me it went through a rigorous peer-review process since that is what Harvard has. I then had to take a screenshot of the email to show that it was real and that this had been done. Then the skeptic kept insisting I give parts of the book to them so they could see the claims. I was already getting tired of that and decided to move on. I consider this definitely an irrational skepticism.

One other sign of this is that it asks for unreasonable amounts of evidence. If you insist the only way you will believe in Jesus is if you have a personal experience, then there is really no point in debating. After all, you have already decided the evidence will be insufficient.

However, while it is the case that too many Christians can be gullible, atheists can also be gullible. How many buy into the idea that Jesus never even existed as if this is a hot debate in the field of scholarship? What is amusing is how many of these people go after young-Earth creationists.

I realize some of my readers are YECs and I think they would certainly admit that yes, their ideas on the history of Earth are not accepted within the academic community. So are they not outliers like mythicists are? Yes, but there are more PhDs in a relevant field who are YECs than there are in corresponding fields who are mythicists. Not only that, at least YECs can say that they base their arguments on the authority of God, which I can understand even if I disagree. Mythicists don’t have that.

There are other myths that are believed. What about accounts such as millions being killed in the Inquisition? What about the idea that the Middle Ages were a dark period where all science was banned? What about the idea that if you found one contradiction in Scripture that all of theism and Christianity would be disproved?

And where are many of these claims found? On the internet. Ideas that were tossed aside decades ago are given new life on the internet and treated like a big secret that is being covered up. These are conspiracy theories for atheists.

Someone could be a skeptic, read both sides, and decide Christianity has the better arguments. Remember, skepticism is for a purpose. It is to help keep you from believing false beliefs, but it is not to keep you from believing anything and too many Christians and atheists both are very prone to believing something that already agrees with them. (This also happens in politics.)

As for if God will reward someone for being gullible, such a person just goes in the right direction and God doesn’t cast them out because they have bad epistemology. A non-Christian will not be punished because they were skeptics per se. It will be for the sins that they committed. Christianity is a faith that tells us to examine all things and hold to what is true. We should still do that.

I encourage skepticism, especially in the age of the internet. Go out and read the best books as the best material will not be found on the internet, and I say that as one who regularly puts material on the internet. If you are skeptical, be an informed skeptic and not an irrational one.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
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What Is Your Opponent Reading?

How important is good reading to a discussion? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I am a strong supporter of good reading. As it stands, right now I’m going through Behind The Scenes of the Old Testament which is a very big book. Why? Because I want to be more informed on the matters that I talk about. I am of the mindset that those who do not read will always be at the mercy of those who do.

Yet I also want to encourage a look at the opposite approach. Sometimes when I am in dialogue with a non-Christian, I will ask them when was the last time they read a book on this topic that disagreed with them. I’m not surprised that I really can’t think of one time that that question was answered well.

If you want to go out there and talk with people who disagree with you, it helps you greatly to know what they really think. You can get some of that from reading comments or maybe watching videos or articles and blogs on the internet, but the fullest treatment to be found is often in the books. Not only should you read books, but you should read books by the best minds that you can find.

Most scholars don’t put out their work for free because like most of us, they have bills to pay as well. If you watch a YouTube video or debate of one of them speaking, you will, in essence, get a picture and a paragraph. You will get a Reader’s Digest version of what they think and why. The fullest treatment to be found is in the books.

When I meet a non-Christian who is not willing to read, I just don’t take them seriously. It’s not a shock that usually the arguments they have then arguments from outrage or arguments from incredulity. Many people who claim to be on the side of reason honor it with their lips, but their heads are far from it.

Let’s also consider the irony here. These are people who often talk about Christians living in their own little bubbles and not wanting to have anything to do with a contrary thought. Sadly, sometimes they are right about that. The problem is when they refuse to read the best books that disagree with them, they’re doing the exact same thing. They are refusing to consider any contrary thought and what a shock that they don’t change their minds.

If you are someone who is out there in the field and doing debates with skeptics, I urge you to know their material well. I urge you to know it so well that if you had to, you could put on the skeptic hat and make a better presentation for their side than their opponents could. If you don’t know a subject matter, don’t argue about it. You’re being just as bad as your opponents are then. Make sure you’re doing the reading about what you believe, but read about what you don’t believe as well. It will help you in the long run.

In Christ,
Nick Peters