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Monday, February 15, 2010

Faith or Reason? Part Three

In two previous posts (here and here), I discussed how evangelical Christianity, while giving lip service to reason and evidence, actually rests upon faith. This is clearly evident when someone like William Craig says that no evidence could disconfirm his faith.

I would like to provide a further example today that evangelical Christians subordinate reason to faith. Dan Miller, Th.M. (Central Seminary), D.Min. (cand., Trinity Evangelical Divinity School), recently published a post entitled: Reasoning Outside the Box of Human Reason. He begins by saying,
Unless you reason outside the box of human reason, you can forget about understanding the Jesus of the Bible. Only those willing and able to break the constraints of common experience and human rationalism can hope to make any sense of Jesus’ life and ministry.

I applaud him for his honesty. He seems to be admitting that unless we sacrifice our intellect, we will never understand Jesus' life and ministry. He continues:
The birth narrative of Jesus demands that we think outside the box. We have no conceptual or experiential category for a woman conceiving a child without sperm from a man. But the biblical authors announce that Jesus was conceived in the womb of a virgin named Mary by a direct act of God.

Why should we believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, according to Miller? Because the Bible says so, period. Since Miller (and evangelicals in general) have already predetermined, by faith, that the Bible is divinely inspired and inerrant, then whatever it says has to be true. Faith trumps reason for evangelicals.

Miller goes on to say the death of Jesus for sinners makes no sense. He writes:
At the heart of the mind-blowing truths that God opens eyes to see, is the truth that Jesus died to save sinners from God’s wrath. It is mind-boggling to think that God does not accept good people but receives those who are His natural enemies—people who lie, cheat, lust, swear, hate others, love themselves and fail to love God with all their hearts (Rom. 4:4-5; 5:10). It defies human reason that the sinless Jesus would die to pay the penalty of sin, forgive sinners, and defeat death in their place. That may not seem to make sense, but deep down in your heart, you know this is exactly what you need.

So, why should anyone believe that the death of Jesus saves sinners, even though, it is patently absurd? Because according to Miller, deep down in your heart, you know this is exactly what you need. People ought to believe that Jesus died for them because of some subjective notion? Yep, thats what evangelicals believe.

It should be crystal clear that evangelical Christianity is based solely on faith and subjective notions. Those apologists who claim it is based on historical evidence and reason are being disingenuous.


  1. "It defies human reason that the sinless Jesus would die to pay the penalty of sin, forgive sinners, and defeat death in their place. That may not seem to make sense, but deep down in your heart, you know this is exactly what you need."

    Really, that's his full arsenal? Deep down inside you know you're wrong, messed up, abject slave caught in a quagmire of sin, and although it doesn't make sense... just take it on faith? Wow. Simply astounding. I have to go take an aspirin from the headache it caused to read Miller's comment.

    On another note, I STRONGLY disagree. It doesn't defy reason that Jesus would die to atone for mankind's sins--it's a very predictable Hero Archetype. Anyone well versed in mythology will have seen it a thousand times before. The problem is, for the believer, instead of just relying on the presupposition that it was the greatest 'historical' event ever to occur, and not just a myth, Christians have a lot of proving to do before they even bring it into the realm of dependable historicity.

    Convince the skeptics beyond a reason of a doubt according to the same rules of critical thinking and scrutiny used by the keenest minds over the face of the planet, and perhaps the arguments may be worth making. But until that time, it's so unconvincing as to practically spawn unbelievers. I should know, as I happen to be an ex-Evangelical of three decades. And if that isn't saying something, then I just don't know what is.

  2. Ken,

    Your argument falls flat because you have to deal with the resurrection. If the resurrection is true, then the rest of Scripture is true. The evidence for the resurrection is overwhelming.

    I don't think anyone could prove every point of their life; however, I can prove I graduated, that I was born and my current employment. I would not be able to prove that I had breakfast three weeks ago or that I went swimming five years ago. While all these things are true, I don't need to prove everything in my life in order for it to be true.

    The same is true in the life of Christ. The resurrection once demonstrated confirms the rest of His life.

  3. ZDENNY: "The evidence for the resurrection is overwhelming."

    To you, perhaps. To me, the evidence for the resurrection is unconvincing.

    Further, even if the resurrection is true, it doesn't necessarily follow that the rest of scripture is true.

    You're right on the edge of circular logic here. How do we know the resurrection is true? Because of the scriptures. How do we know the scriptures are true? Because of the resurrection.

  4. Zdenny has claimed overwelming evidence before but fails to provide any. It is an empty and false claim "proven" only by repeated assertion.

  5. Yes, I've noticed. Unfortunately, while I don't have especially strong feelings about atheism or belief, I do object to poorly reasoned arguments. (I suppose that qualifies me as a militant agnostic.) And so I respond.

    Odds are that I'm wasting my time, since A) ZDENNY seems unlikely to improve his contributions, and B) anyone reading his comments here can probably spot the gaping logical flaws on their own. But that's fine, because I'm amusing myself well enough to make the exercise worthwhile. When I get bored, I'll likely wander off again (or quit responding to his - his? - erm, assertions).

  6. Evangelicals do appeal to "the Bible tells me so" kind of faith. But when you ask them why the Bible is the word of God, they give reasons: unity of thought with multiple authors spanning centuries, fulfilled prophecy, etc. So despite all the talk about faith, they still fall back on reason.

  7. Since the overwhelming evidence for the resurrection appears to be a recurring and pivotal theme I'd like to point to this post:

    When I was a Christian I knew there were differences in the resurrection stories but I never did what was proposed, i.e. read the different stories side-by-side. It's quite enlightening. I cannot see any way to reconcile these differing stories into a coherent whole.

    If we're talking about fallible human recollection (or fabrication) then it's understandable that the stories would vary. However if the bible is the inerrant, inspired word of god there is a serious problem.

    I'm sure there must be a christian apologetic that reconciles these contradictions but I've never seen it. Is there an effective reconciliation?

  8. When Dan Miller says,

    "We have no conceptual or experiential category for a woman conceiving a child without sperm from a man."

    he is wrong, there is a category and it's called the arbitrary. The arbitrary is any claim that has no proof presented. The mind cannot process these claims so you dismiss them out of hand.

    David McBride

  9. Derek, I remember the day I discovered these contradictions. It was so upsetting, because I knew they couldn't be harmonized without an unlikely rearrangement of the event's details.

    People do try to make the story work, though. Robert Price calls these attempts "Rube Goldberg harmonizations," which is about right. It all goes along with the unspoken evangelical assumption that any possible harmonization of Scripture, even if implausible, still leaves the inerrancy intact. (I always felt like I was lying when I offered these explanations.)