Monday, January 3, 2011

Doubting Your Doubts

Here's yet another quote from the Apologetics315 blog:

The only way to doubt Christianity rightly and fairly is to discern the alternate belief under each of your doubts and then ask yourself what reasons you have for believing it. How do you know your belief is true? It would be inconsistent to require more justification for Christian belief than you do for your own, but that is frequently what happens. In fairness you must doubt your doubts. My thesis is that if you come to recognize the beliefs on which your doubts about Christianity are based, and if you seek as much proof for those beliefs as you seek from Christians for theirs – you will discover that your doubts are not as solid as they first appeared.

- Tim Keller

Critiquing the "Sunday Quote" has indeed become a recreational activity for me. I hope Brian Auten (founder of Apologetics315) doesn't take this personally; after all, I'm a blogger, which means I'm always looking for something to write about. I have nothing against the guy. I don't even know him. That said, after reading this week's quote, all I could say was, "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard!"

That's hyperbole, of course. I can't say for certain that this quote is in fact the stupidest thing I have ever heard, but it's safe to say that this quote by Tim Keller is just plain dumb. I mean, this quote is a tangled mess of nonsense.

Keller claims that the "only way to doubt Christianity rightly and fairly is to discern the alternate belief under each of your doubts and then ask yourself what reasons you have for believing it." Keller seems to misunderstand what it means to doubt. He apparently thinks that to doubt Christianity means "to have an alternate belief" in lieu of Christianity. No, Tim. To doubt is to question, to be unsure of the claim(s) being made, to require evidence before accepting the claim(s) as truth. Doubt does not require an "alternate belief" as Keller suggests.

Keller claims it is "inconsistent to require more justification for Christian belief than you do for your own," and he's absolutely correct. Whether "that is frequently what happens" as Keller claims is arguable. "In fairness you must doubt your doubts," Keller claims. What a minute: if a doubt requires an "alternate belief," then what is the alternate belief under the doubt one should have in one's doubts? And once you figure that out, shouldn't you doubt the doubt in your doubts? But what's the "alternate belief" under that doubt? And shouldn't you now doubt the doubt in the doubt in your doubts?

I could go on, but I doubt you'd want to read it.

As though attempting to offer clarification, Tim Keller states his thesis explicitly: "if you come to recognize the beliefs on which your doubts about Christianity are based, and if you seek as much proof for those beliefs as you seek from Christians for theirs – you will discover that your doubts are not as solid as they first appeared." What a pile of garbage.

Let's assume Tim is correct: to doubt is to have an alternate belief, and said alternate belief is lacking in evidence to support it. That still doesn't mean Christianity is correct, or that its truth claims should be believed. This is yet another example of an argument from ignorance, a Christian apologist's standard modus operandi. "How else can you explain it?" or, "Well you can't prove your view is true!" is no argument to support one's own belief.

But let's not give Tim Keller that much credit. He's not correct, for to doubt is simply to question. I don't need an alternate belief in order to question your belief. All I need is a desire to know truth, and the will to demand evidence before I give intellectual assent. If I question your beliefs and you can't provide good reason why I should believe the way you do, then my doubt is solid, and will remain solid until I have reason for it to be otherwise.

ADDENDUM: I remember sitting in my Christian Apologetics class at Lincoln Christian College, listening to the professor lecture about an often-utilized apologetic tactic, which I eventually called the "Same Boat" argument. The tactic was basically an attempt to show that we're all "in the same boat" intellectually; that is, everyone's beliefs are difficult - if not impossible - to prove. This somehow was supposed to serve as a "defense" of Christian theism. This bothered me; after all, I was a Christian and a Bible college student, sitting in an apologetics class looking for some ammunition to use against those dirty atheists. I didn't want to hear that we were all "in the same boat," because that sounded more like a defense of agnosticism than of Christianity. Tim Keller's admonition that we "be fair" and "seek as much proof" for other beliefs as we seek for Christianity reminds me of this "Same Boat" defense.

Interesting how Bible college helped confirm my agnosticism.

Dead-Logic.com

1 comment:

Infidel753 said...

The fact is, there are alternate ways of explaining the world, which are supported by what for all practical purposes constitutes "proof", therefore the doubts about religion to which those alternate "beliefs" give rise are well-supported, even by Keller's own standards.

When they can come up with even one-thousandth as much evidence supporting their religious mythology as the amount of evidence that supports evolution, I'll admit he might have a point.