Sunday, 8 March 2015

Reading atheist literature

I have heard it said at least once that if Christianity is true it should be able to stand against its critics. It should have good answers to those who find problems with it.

Some also suggest that believers can and should read books antagonistic to the faith because if Christianity is true then our beliefs will stand.

I happen to think that the basic concept behind these thoughts is valid. Truth refutes falsehood. Let God be true and every man a liar (Rom 3:4). If Christianity is the true worldview then all facts and experiences will be consistent with it.

The problem with this position is that we are finite. So while a robust faith can take it on the nose, how robust is our faith? How well equipped is the average Christian to receive challenges to his beliefs?

Faith is more than well-grounded correct knowledge. And I have no problem with those of a less intellectual disposition who are content to follow Christ as best they can without concern with to cognitive challenges. Nevertheless, there are challenges to one's faith in reading authors antagonistic to God. Falsehood can be very persuasive. Many struggle to distinguish dialectic from rhetoric; many lack adequate foundation and confidence in truth; and many struggle to identify the false presuppositions or interpretations clothed as facts.

Therefore, spending significant time reading material inconsistent with Christianity is not helpful. This is not a matter of whether Christianity can weather the storms, it is whether you can. Don't assume you know more than you do or that you are stronger than you are.

It is a battle. The war for your soul is real. Jesus said he sends us out as lambs amongst wolves (Luk 10:3). Wolves seek to destroy lambs and are successful in doing so. Sheep have no defense against predators and lambs are even more vulnerable.

Consider this decision. Now I don't know where this guy was at prior to reading so many books on atheism but I think this sort of thinking is incredibly foolish.
I was raised in a Christian Fundamentalist home my whole life. From one through 12th grade I was home schooled, and was taught everything through the Christian fundamentalist lense. After High school I attended a hyper fundamentalist place called Honor Academy. At Honor Academy I gained interest in philosophy and Christian apologetics and decided to dedicate my life to Christian apologetics. I am 23 now and since then I have read hundreds of Christian Apologetics books. I have read all of Lewis, all of Schaeffer, all of Peter Kreeft, all of Dr. Geisler's books, including his encyclopedia A-Z twice, and his Systematic Theology twice, I have read Plantinga, McDowell, Craig, Ravi, Moreland, Holding, Swinburne, N.T Wright, Paul Copan Etc. I was until recently enrolled at Dr. Geisler's school to study apologetics and philosophy.

This year I decided in order to be fair and honest to read all the top skeptical books on religion. So I did some research and made a list of over 100 books. I am now at book 76 and consider myself a confident Atheist.
The author of one of these books, John Loftus, argues that Christians should read the top sceptical books against Christianity,
If your faith can withstand our arguments then you will be a better informed Christian with a much stronger faith. If your faith cannot withstand our arguments then your faith wasn’t worth having in the first place. YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE!
But you have everything to lose. Should I intentionally surround myself with as many ravenous wolves as I can find; if I survive I am stronger for it, and if I get torn to pieces...?

Men are fallen so they reason fallibly: both Christians and non-Christians. But Paul warns us concerning men who reject the truth. He writes to the Thessalonians,
Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12) 
Like all men their reasoning is fallen, but they are also susceptible to lies. They have a disposition towards believing falsehood in preference truth. If the Bible is true then those who write against the Bible are likely to be writing rhetoric for nonsense. What benefit is it for those who know the truth to spend so much time listening to error?

Now I am not saying that we can isolate ourselves from the world's agenda. I read a lot of literature (books, journals, internet) and much of it has many subtle assumptions that are hostile to the Bible—though I should be cautious. Nor am I saying that it is wrong to ever read atheist material. I have read the odd atheist book. And I think intellectually solid Christians should read and refute atheist claims. Rather I am arguing that while the Bible may be an anvil that has worn out many a hammer, your understanding of the Bible may not be so sturdy. And we are not involved in merely a dispassionate discussion about various ideas, this is a war with your soul at stake. Do not think you are stronger than you are. Paul warns the Corinthians against evil and participating in sin although his warning seems apropos here,
Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12)

4 comments:

  1. I think the greatest danger exists for those whose "beliefs" in Christianity are propositional rather than experiential. If one has been taught in a way that makes Christianity seem like a series of facts and propositions, that one will be more susceptible to the kinds of dangers you so ably wrote about. If one knows Jesus, personally, intimately, that one is in a much better position.

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  2. SLW, your comment is similar to the situation where we know our mother, or father, or friend because we have met them. If someone produced reasoning to prove my brother did not exist it would mean nothing to me because of our relationship and I know him.

    And this would apply to people like John, and Thomas.

    Though I think it is possible to know Jesus like this, it is not totally analogous to other people because Jesus does not appear to us materially. So I partly agree, but I am also aware that arguments for the existence of God and the resurrection of Jesus are still meaningful. I would say that my confidence in theism is true is greater than my confidence that Christianity is true (though I am very certain of both). I still think propositional reasons are very powerful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They are, and an experiential belief is subject itself to being undermined by further experiences that seem at odds with earlier ones or expected ones. The best of both worlds would be to have a warm relationship with Jesus (an experiential affair) and a strong grasp on biblical truth (a propositional pursuit).

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