Tuesday, April 28, 2009

You Can Lead Some Non-believers to Evidence, But You Can't Make Them Think

Now right off the bat, I want to give full credit to Ray Comfort for the title of this blog, because I ripped it off his latest book of similar title. That being said, I also chose this title because, well, it's true! Lately I've been engaging various individuals over the internet about Christianity and its truth merit, because I've been more and more convinced that the facts behind Christianity make it well placed on the battlefield of competing ideas, even superiorly so. In doing so, I've encountered everyone from extreme, unmitigated skeptics to those who claim all out omniscience (no really). From this what I've come to realize is that for some people, evidence doesn't matter. They've a priori, that is before any evidence is even considered, already concluded that things like Jesus and God, are necessarily false and simply can't be true, though no justification has been (or can be for that matter) given.

I have a certain apologetic argument that I use, really just for myself. I think it's good but it's simply too easy for a detractor to wiggle out of, so rarely do I use it. I call it the Manufacturer's Manual argument or M&M. It basically states that because the bible so accurately describes the nature and tendencies of mankind, and does so most times in an unflattering light, that it 1). does not contain solely the ideas of man, for man would write about himself in more glowing terms (see new age "theology") and 2). the only kind of individual that could really understand the inner-workings of man, in some cases a predictive fashion, would have to be someone with real, objective insight into the human project, the molder of the clay if you will. And so given the pin point, unfiltered assessment of mankind in the bible it's my opinion it could have only written by a manufacturer OF mankind. Why did I say all this? Because the bible so accurately describes just such a person as aforementioned. Consider this passage.

Rom.1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness. 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.
20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools.

This is a part Paul's most brilliant argument from natural theology. In this he argues that creation is more than enough proof to point one to the fact that there must be a Creator. Now in the encounters I've been having, this hasn't been my argument, but what I pull from this passage relating to my blog is this; for some its not about evidence. Indeed it never will be. Notice Paul says they suppress the truth in unrighteousness. It's not that the evidence hasn't come in or doesn't suffice rather it's where the evidence leads, and this I think is what I've been encountering. I'll give you a scenario and you decide for yourself.

Recently I was chatting with a guy, Carol he called himself (after a city). He made the claim that Christianity is just a bunch of fictitious stories and there is no evidence for it, none, zilch. Now immediately, I knew what level of thoughtfulness I was up against, and I hope if you don't pick up on this fallacy, you'll leave here with that knowledge. When someone makes the claim that no evidence exists for say God, they're claiming something ironically God-like, omniscience.

To say that there is no evidence for God (or anything really) you'd have to have complete knowledge of all that is in the universe, on every planet, through all the depths of all there is. Seasoned critical thinkers know this, that's how I know I'm up against someone who hasn't been doing this long, and so is probably emoting their preferences rather than expressing an idea they have arguments for. Now of coarse the intellectually sound thing to say is rather, from what I've seen so far, no evidence for X convinces me, thats alot more rational. I pointed this out and he even said, almost as if it was my fault "how can i prove a universal negative?"...exactly. So he somewhat retreated, but then started up again saying theres no evidence outside the bible to corroborate it.

Now again, and I hope you retain this, when someone says something like this, take a deep breath in and relax, because you're dealing with someone who has absolutely no idea what they're talkin about. If you've done your homework about the evidences that support the Christian faith, you know this kind of claim could only be made by someone who hasn't even begun to investigate Christianity from any kind of objective standpoint. I asked him how he knew this (because of coarse he couldn't because its not true, but i wanted to amuse myself a little) and he just gave a sort of "just so" answer. I think he also kind of knew he was making claims too big for him to handle so he replied "well show me some then, prove there are some", to which I gleefully responded "sure!" I always love that part in the game. So I gave him a link to some writings by the Jewish historian Josephus, recognized by all of scholarship to be a reliable source of information of Jewish and Roman history from about the mid 1st century to the end. He's of paticular interest because of his references to Jesus, and his brother James' death.

I showed him the link, he looked at it and said "this isn't proof". I asked why not? He said "well, this is just somebody interpreting the bible", and I asked, "and how do you know that ?". No response, but a change in direction "you just gave me some scriptures and doctrines", my response "how are the historical writings of a non-Christian Jew scripture and doctrine, what about this passage suggest that". No real response to this question, some more reassertions and finally "okay this is a extra-biblical reference I'll give you that, but it doesn't prove Jesus existed!" Notice all the wiggling, and not due to careful reflection about that passages. It's not as though he took what I gave him and then I don't know, researched it maybe, and then came to the conclusions he did. Rather in sort of a knee-jerk reaction sort of way, responded nope, not proof, not real, something, anything other than evidence.

Now what I told him was that Josephus isn't even the only one, and that there are more. He never responded, but I didn't want to continue because he was being irrational, and I told him this. I said "for people like you, no evidence will ever suffice, I could show you a hundred historians, but you would find a way to explain all of them away, because you're a priori committed to the idea that nothing said in the bible can be true". He scoffed as I expected but we ended there. Now unbeknowst to him (and most people for that matter) the very existence of Jesus as just a historical person is not even in hot dispute. The overwhelming majority of academia agree He existed, though they may not substantiate the theological implications of the gospels, though some do. So you have this guy, 21, who says emphatically that no evidence for Jesus exists outside the bible (although theres no good reasons to reject the gospels as evidence, but that's another blog) exists to say Jesus existed, and you have all of those who matter on the subject, who are experts in the field who say he did. Am I the only person who takes pause at this?

To me encounters like these and many others simply prove one thing, for some no amount of evidence could ever convince them if the evidence concludes in a place they dont like. It's not as though (for some people) theres no evidence for God or Christianity and because of this people don't believe. Rather it's the implications of what that means, and that dictates that they won't believe. In fact as I recall when I asked him where he had looked for evidence he said "My experience, and thats all that matters. I used to be a Christian". Now that he was allegedly a Christian says absolutely nothing about his exposure to the evidences for Christianity. Indeed most Christians are fideist, and have no exposure to external evidence for Christianity and some even disdain the very concept, unfortunately. So it's clear to me then that he's never known about any evidence, nor has probably desired to. I've often heard it said that people like that "look for evidence the way criminals look for cops".

So in conclusion I'd just like to say this, when you're fulfilling your responsibility as an ambassador for Jesus, be mindful that for some, it's not you, or that you're case isn't compelling enough for opposers, it's the conclusion, its what you're suggesting. As Paul said they suppress what they do know, and because of this they keep themselves from what they need to know. Indeed, the end result is that they become horses needlessly dying of thirst at the banks of the River of Life.

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