Posted by: Average Joe | June 11, 2012

Skeptical Challenge

How is RTB––or any thinking Christian––different from the Skeptics Society?

According to its website, “The Skeptics Society is a non-profit . . . organization whose goal is to promote skeptical thinking (i.e. thinking like a scientist).”

As a Christian ministry RTB’s larger (thus, different) goal is “to spread the Christian Gospel by demonstrating that sound reason and scientific research––including the very latest discoveries––consistently support, rather than erode confidence in the truth of the Bible and faith in the personal, transcendent God revealed in both Scripture and nature.”

But as far as the Skeptics Society’s goal is concerned, RTB’s scholars (and anybody associated with the ministry) affirm such a quest and operate in that manner as a matter of course. Scientists Hugh Ross, Fuz Rana, and Jeff Zweerink would all say skeptical thinking––thinking like a scientist––is a good thing. Philosopher Kenneth Samples might add that philosophical thinking––in fact, any well-reasoned thinking––is also helpful. But is there sufficient warrant for a typical skeptic’s type of skepticism?

Hugh says in Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job (p. 37) that he’s never met a true atheist. “I’ve encountered many individuals who adopt that label, but so far they’ve all been people with complaints against God––or against those who purportedly know him.”

History shows that believers have lived inconsistently enough to justify some complaining, but in the end a skeptic must contend with the evidence, arguments, and reasoning that undergird the Christian faith. If a skeptic says she does not find adequate evidence pointing to the God of the Bible, we’re obliged to believe her––we can’t see people’s hearts, after all––but one can’t help but wonder if it’s not true scientific skepticism, but rather cynicism (contemptuous distrust), that’s at play.

Cynicism seems to be consonant with what Ken Samples calls “hard agnosticism.” Ken provides a helpful description of the problem with hard (or dogmatic) agnosticism in a short, impactful article “Is Dogmatic Agnosticism Logically Self-Defeating?”

[T]he dogmatic form of agnosticism is actually self-defeating (at the same time affirming and denying the identical claim) for the position simultaneously asserts that one doesn’t know if God exists and yet knows enough about God to assert that no one can know that God exists. Hard agnostics, in effect, claim to have knowledge about a topic that they claim is not possible to know anything about.

Believers in God readily admit that there’s much unknown about him, but what is (or can be) known about God is sufficient for human beings to place their trust in him. Reasons To Believe exists to help others discover the variety of ways––from the tiniest, amazingly complex components of the cell to the vast, carefully crafted structure of the universe––the Creator has revealed himself. It is an awe-inspiring climb to knowledge with occasional (appropriate) sidetracks of skepticism, but the overall path fills open minds with ever-satisfying truth.

Are skeptics willing to join Christians on this fulfilling quest? Have we invited them?


Responses

  1. I have a soft spot in my heart for skeptics – even though sometimes their comments drive me crazy! I enjoy reading information from sources like quackwatch.com or the Science-Based Medicine blog, which chronicle the silly pseudoscience behind so many health and medical claims flooding our society today. Very informative and refreshingly sensible information – except for the occasional sideswipe at religion.

    A personal experience: a few years ago I joined an email group of “skeptical” physicians. They had interesting conversations I understsood more or less, but when I happened to mention that I am an evangelical Christian… oh boy! In my naivete, I thought they would congratulate me on my good sense for not falling for every new natural wondercure, but – although they were polite – it was obvious they were hostile towards my faith. Eventually, I left the group because, to be honest, I was completely out of my depth scientifically and didn’t make any perceivable dent spiritually.

    Anyway, I really like how you’ve identified such people as “cynics” rather than “skeptics”. I had never thought of that term, but I think that very accurately describes many of the people who post on those sites! I will keep it in mind as I read, and I will try to remember to pray for them – although they would either laugh at or be irritated about that. Doesn’t bother me, though!

  2. As per skeptics, one can often find the cynicism in their tone indeed. Intellectualism is the worse form of spiritual blindness, beggars prostitute, murders and such likes ran to Jesus with open hearts, while the pharisees scuffed.
    To be wise in one’s own eyes is pride; possible the first and even the worst sin.

    Listen hard enough to the skeptic and you’ll not only hear cynicism but pride as well

  3. The entire challenge to hard agnosticism is not only irrelivent to the purposes of RTB but fails logically. Simply put, we can have vast amounts of knowledge on many given subjects yet still be unable to draw any absolute conclusions. The purported “self-refutation” doesn’t exist.

    • Likewise, in order for that argument to work, the “knowledge” of God is assumed to be reliable evidence in the first place. Skeptics readily and humbly admit what isn’t concretely known and embrace with evidence what most certainly is; both simple tasks are proven difficult for the faithful. One must ask them self which position emits more “pride.”

    • Actually the argument is valid. You cant say, “I dont have enough proof to believe” and at the same time say, “noone has enough proof to believe.” The later of the 2 statements implies that you DO know enough about the “GOD topic” to be able to say that “NOONE” has enough proof. Anyone who can make such a bold claim, must be extremely well versed in physics, archeology, chemistry, psychology, anthropolgy, genetics, philosophy, astronomy, biology, humanities, linguistics, literature, performing & visual arts, cultural & ethnic studies, economics, area studies, gender & sexuallity, geography, political science, sociology, space sciences, earth sciences, life sciences, engineering, logic, mathmatics, statistics, system sciences, agriculture, architecture/design, computer science, journalism/media/communication, business, education, library/museum studies, military science, human physical performance, kinesiology, law, healthcare sciences, family/consumer sciences, public administration, transportation, etc., etc., etc., as well as all the sub-catagories of each of these. On top of all of this knowledge, you must also be psychic to really KNOW whether or not the rest of us have enough “proof” to believe in GOD. Did I mention that “proof” was never a contributing factor in “faith” or that stating “NOONE can really know whether or not GOD exists” is extremely arrogant, both in and of itself, to claim on behalf of the entire human race, past, present & future. One last observation that I must point out is that you sure are arguing really hard for someone who supposedly is “ignorant of the existance”.
      Free advice:
      If you have not researched to come to a definitive conclusion on whether to embrace or deny GOD completely, I would highly recommend that you begin your quest immediately, giving it the utmost priority & whole-heartedly resigning yourself to seeking the “TRUTH” & not just what fits into your schemas on how life should be or what secular society champions as “right”. This isn’t a test that anyone should want to fail. After all, your immortal soul is what is at stake.
      Final Thought:
      I would rather believe and be wrong, where no consequence can be imposed, than NOT believe and be wrong where the imposed consequence is eternal damnation & absolute seperation from GOD for eternity… js


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