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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Am I Just Biased Against the Supernatural?

Some Christians will maintain that I and others who reject the literal resurrection of Jesus are just biased against the supernatural. In other words, they say we have made up our minds in advance of the evidence that the supernatural does not exist. Is that a fair assessment, in light of what I said yesterday about everyone being biased by their worldview?

I agree that I have a bias against the supernatural. But I maintain most evangelical Christians do as well, unless the supernatural event is recorded in their canonical Scriptures.

Why don't they believe that the Angel Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith? Why don't they believe in the miracles reported at Lourdes? Why don't they believe in the Hindu milk miracle?

They don't believe these miracles because they contradict their presupposition that the Bible is the Word of God. Now in all fairness, a minority of evangelicals might argue that these miracles are indeed true but that they are done by a diabolical power. At least that is more consistent. It is also more in line with the general mindset of the people in the Bible days.

For example, we were at the doctor's office the other day and a woman was having a diabetic seizure. She was screaming, groaning, trying to bite the nurse, etc. A first century person seeing this would have probably concluded that the person was demon possessed. They tended to interpret unexplainable events as being supernatural in cause. They were biased in favor of the supernatural(See Matthew 17:15-18).

As a post-Enlightenement individual living in a world where most events that used to be ascribed to the supernatural now have natural explanations, I freely admit that I am biased against supernatural explanations. I think the evidence for a supernatural cause for an event would have to be overwhelming (not extraordinary--I am not falling into the trap that extraordinary events require extraordinary evidence).

But are Christians any less biased, albeit in the opposite direction? No, I don't think so. Since they have presupposed the Bible to be a divine revelation, they will believe what it reports no matter what.

For example, Mark Smith claims he asked William Craig the following question:

Dr. Craig, for the sake of argument let's pretend that a time machine gets built. You and I hop in it, and travel back to the day before Easter, 33 AD. We park it outside the tomb of Jesus. We wait. Easter morning rolls around, and nothing happens. We continue to wait. After several weeks of waiting, still nothing happens. There is no resurrection- Jesus is quietly rotting away in the tomb.

I asked him, given this scenario, would he then give up his Christianity? Having seen with his own eyes that there was no resurrection of Jesus, having been an eyewitness to the fact that Christianity has been based upon a fraud and a lie, would he NOW renounce Christianity? His answer was shocking, and quite unexpected.

He told me, face to face, that he would STILL believe in Jesus, he would STILL believe in the resurrection, and he would STILL remain a Christian. When asked, in light of his being a personal eyewitness to the fact that there WAS no resurrection, he replied that due to the witness of the "holy spirit" within him, he would assume a trick of some sort had been played on him while watching Jesus' tomb.

Now whether Craig actually said this or not, I don't know for certain but it is in agreement with his writings in which he says that he knows Christianity is true ultimately due to the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. (See Reasonable Faith, pp. 32ff.)

So, Craig believes because of the "inner witness of the Spirit" and then he interprets the evidence to agree with his prior belief. No contrary evidence, according to him, can overturn his belief. Isn't that blatant bias?

Now, I maintain that my position is more consistent. I acknowledge my bias against the supernatural but I apply that bias across the board. In other words, when I read a report of a miracle in the Koran, the Book of Mormon, the Bible, or any other book, I begin with the assumption that it is false. I will examine whatever evidence exists and if there is overwhelming evidence, I am willing to re-think my initial assumption.

Evangelical Christians such as Craig, on the other hand, will not allow any evidence to disconfirm their belief in Christianity. When they read a report of a miracle in the Koran or the Book of Mormon, they assume its false and apply post-enlightenement criteria to examine the claim. When they read a miracle claim in the Bible, they assume its true and go about to explain away the post-enlightenment understanding of such a miracle claim.

Who is more consistent?


  1. I agree with your premises and think they are very well laid out. In my opinion the accusation that someone is biased against the supernatural is an apologetics strategy more than an honest assessment of why someone is rejecting particular evidence. It is either a way of trying to put the skeptic on the defensive or is a way for the believer to try to understand the unbeliever without trying to view their religion from an outsider's perspective.

  2. I know I've posted this before, but it seems so relevant to the discussion.

    How do you kill God? If Jesus died, then he wasn't a God. If Jesus didn't die, then he wasn't a sacrafice.

    1. Of course you can't kill God - and, of course Jesus was not God. Scripture clearly teaches that Jesus is a man - NOTE: A MAN - NOT a human nature a la trinitarianism. This fact is stated by every apostle and Jesus Himself (Jn 8:40) about 20 times the best statement is ITim2:5. Heb2:11, 12 assures us that Jesus was created.

      None of this has to do with whether He was resurrected or not...

    2. Jesus is the SON of God, born of a virgin. Yes, God can get a virgin pregnant. He died as a human, accepting the death sentence we all are given, not because God hates us but because we reject him & he won't force us to be with him against our will. What would the world be like if Hitler & Nero, etc. lived forever? Rapists & pedophiles, slave owners, terrorists & psychopaths? God raised him from the dead because he was innocent of the crime for which he was convicted.

    3. Shelby - Son of God is VERY different than God.

  3. I don't think it is a fair assessment to say that us skeptics are biased against the supernatural, any more than we're biased against leprechauns and their pots of gold at the end of the rainbow- it's just that there's such an extreme lack of evidence for those things that we simply can't believe in them. And just how, exactly, are we supposed to know or detect the supernatural anyway, when every single way we have of interacting with the world around us is natural? My old pastor used to say that the spiritual world is more *real* than the physical world (I guess because it's 'eternal,' and the physical world is 'temporary'). Ok, and just how are we supposed to know that for sure? If the only way to 'know' about something supernatural is 'through faith' then anyone's faith is just as valid as another's. One guy believes it was Jesus, while another believes it was the FSM that did it. Since it's all based on faith, you can't prove either wrong. Thanks, but I'll stick with the natural, provable, knowable world over the unknowable-except-through-the-right-faith supernatural any day.

  4. The evidence of the resurrection is overwhelming and the truth of Christianity is overwhelming so I am unsure of your point.

    If you mean by overwhelming that all events have to include natural causes, then you are simply closed minded.

    The examples you provide are not even close compared to the evidence we have for the resurrection. Christianity has multiple witnesses in multiple contexts with at least three historians who also researched and then recorded history.

    We have nothing like this for anything that took place during that time period.

    The ultimate proof is the fact that a Christian can know the love of God through Jesus Christ. Craig is correct that while anyone can doubt evidence since we can doubt our senses, no one can doubt their own experience of doubting.

    Even if God spoke to you personally, you could simply say you were simply delusional for a moment or hallucinated. I don't think any amount of evidence no matter how overwhelming would be good enough for you.

    Love is spiritual and if you want to know the love of god, you have to have faith. It of course is an informed faith based on overwhelming evidence; however, no amount of evidence could convince an atheist who was closed minded.

    My goodness, they still have the flat earth society out there even though the evidence is overwhelming. Atheists fit in pretty good with the flat earthers..

    God Bless..

  5. All I know is when we believe something, our brain gets busy interpreting and noticing things in such a way that confirms our belief.

    I think this strengthens the ex-Christian's position. I grew up in Christianity (fundamentalism)and definitely believed it and wanted to believe it. Then kept noticing over the years that things didn't quite add up.

    That is very different from someone who comes to Christianity NOT wanting to believe it, hoping it's not true.

    So it got a fair shake from me.

  6. What are Christians TRULY relying on? Are they relying on that "sure feeling" inside them?

    I used to get confused about that. What was I to rely on? A feeling? God's voice inside my head? The Bible? What?

    1. Facts! Roman & Jewish records of the time document that Jesus of Nazareth lived when the bible says so. They show he was proclaimed to do miracles, hated by Jewish religious leaders, traveled & spoke to large crowds, was crucified & buried in a Roman guarded tomb. They document he was claimed by crowds to have then been seen, the disciples suffered beatings, imprisonment, exile & execution without denying he was the messiah & resurrected. If Jesus was a liar why would believers of his time been willing to suffer, why would they follow him to their deaths in the colloseum? Those who knew him, who witnessed his miracles & resurection 1st hand did not deny him, how can I?

    2. Shelby

      There are no early Romans or Jewish records that document anything about Jesus.

      If you have specific evidence - please produce specific evidence for us to peer review. I, for one, would love to see it!!

  7. Craig is not committed, first and foremost, to the truth. He's committed to demonstrating that his faith is true. There's a big difference between those two commitments.

    1. One has to be okay with challenging their faith. How do you do that if you have had an experience such as divine healing?

  8. Hi Ken. Nice blog. I don't see any reason to believe that atheists... are biased against the supernatural claims. There are frequent supernatural claims made and when tested they quickly are disconfirmed in most cases. Genuinely surprising things are very unusual and when they happen within a generation or so they are incorporated into the scientific theories.

  9. Ken - Great point that Christians disbelief other supernatural claims...