4. Faith is not knowledge. I prefer to think rather than believe.
This is a common criticism of Christianity by philosophers and atheists, a criticism that is fairly complex. Firstly, this is not a question of faith. Secular intellectuals often boast about how they have substituted knowledge for faith, but they fail to realize that faith (belief) is integral to human existence. No human, save possibly Christ Himself, has ever grasped all possible knowledge of everything, which is the state of omniscience. Thus, in order to make sense of the world, normal humans fill in the “gaps” of knowledge with belief and faith. That is perfectly normal and necessary in order to lead an efficient life. Think about the average day for the average person who goes to work and sits in his office chair. Is there no faith in such a simple scenario? Consider this: How many drivers were on the road as he drove to work? Was he in control of each one of them? Did he even know each of them? No. He trusted that they knew how to drive and would not crash into him. He walked into his office building: Did he evaluate the schematics of the building’s structure to make sure it wouldn’t fall on him? Did he even know who is in charge of its maintenance? No. He trusted that the building was sound. He sat in his office chair: Did he inspect the chair to make sure it was designed to hold him? Did he check it to make sure it was still up to standards? No. He just sat down without even thinking about it. Faith, belief, trust – these things are everywhere, necessary to human existence. No one is above the need for faith. Even atheistic scientists must trust the work of other scientists because no one scientist has learned all scientific knowledge.
So how would a secular philosopher answer this rebuttal? By using an unspoken conditional that is really the question here: Probability. The drivers probably will not crash into me. The building probably will not fall on me. The chair probably will not break. But God probably does not exist. Thus, the real question isn’t faith, but rather what each individual views as probable, which is a much more subjective argument than the seemingly factual “knowledge vs faith” argument. What each person sees as “probable” may or may not have any connection to truth, and it certainly is not a guarantee of it. Once, the Earth was probably flat. Once, the Earth was probably the center of the universe. Once, maggots could probably arise spontaneously from rotten meat. Yet all were, in fact, proven wrong. Lastly, these philosophers usually fail to realize that trusting in probability is, in itself, a reduced form of belief. But such a discussion would lead into a level of complexity that I would like to avoid for this series.
My answer to this challenge is this: Faith is an unavoidable fact in human existence. You choose to place your faith in yourself and in humanity. I choose to place my faith in a supernatural Being who decided to come and introduce Himself to me once.
This answer reduces a complex argument of “logic” to what it is – a matter of personal choice of how we see the world. It doesn’t say that Christianity is a better way than atheism, but it refutes the secular challenge that atheism (or any “-ism”) is a better way than Christianity.
5. You say that you know your God by experience. I suggest that you’ve misinterpreted your experience.
I’ve seen this one hurled several times lately, mostly as a response to the current doctrine that Christianity is an experience of God’s touch rather than a result of a logical mind, a doctrine I promote and to which I hold. It is very difficult for secular philosophers to challenge a personal experience because experiential knowledge is an a posteriori event – not an argument to be challenged. Yet the arrogant and conceited humanist and atheist now attempts the impossible by challenging our conclusions about our personal experiences. So what is the Christian to do?
Receiving a challenge like this should cause anyone to take offense, and I pull no blows when it falls upon me. Now you might be asking, “What would cause such a response in a Christian?” Simply because of what this challenge is really saying: “I know more about your personal experiences than you do, so you need to listen to me.” That’s what this challenge is saying. It’s a “Foul!” by any extension of the term. Self knowledge is something that is universally accepted as an authority among philosophers. Yet scientists, atheists, and other philosophical “dabblers” cross this line to make their case. So what do I mean by authority? True philosophers hold that a person is an authority on themselves unless they are shown to be mentally incapacitated to reality, such as in the case of patients of schizophrenia. Consider this simple scenario:
Dan:I have such an awful headache.
Bob:No, you don’t. You just think you do.
This scenario is so absurd it sounds comical. Yet this is exactly what this type of challenge is saying to the Christian.
My answer to this challenge is this: You’re questioning my ability to rationalize about my own experiences as an independent human being. That is highly offensive, and unless you can produce credentials of psychology and a formal evaluation of my mental capacities, along with a suitable reason for that evaluation, I suggest you make no further such allegation, or I will take action against this slander with my lawyer.
As I said, I have zero tolerance for this sort of challenge and the arrogance which accompanies it. To the more meek and proper Christian than myself, simply revealing the conceitedness of this challenge would probably be enough to dissuade the challenger.
These two challenges were long, so I will stop here and continue with #6 in Part 3 at a later time. Thanks again for reading!