Piety and Rationality

 This article was originally published on Deeper Waters

This article was originally published on Deeper Waters

Can two normally good things be used in a very bad way? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Spend any time dialoguing on sites like Facebook and such in debate threads and you’ll find out that people often have very strong opinions on matters. Not only do they have strong opinions, they also many times do not have a good basis for those strong opinions. It’s not a Christian or an atheist problem, but it is instead a human problem. Everyone is prone to this.

Last night, this came up in a discussion thread. Someone remarked that while atheists and Christians can both be prone to not doing real research and studying and have an anti-intellectualism, atheists seem to do so while proclaiming themselves the rational ones. It was said that one does not see Christians doing this sort of thing.

If he means Christians normally proclaiming themselves champions of reason, that is often true, but Christians do something similar. For them, it’s more often related to holiness and piety. When a Christian is in a debate with another Christian, and sometimes even a non-Christian, they will fall back on their piety in defense of what they believe.

Francis Beckwith once said that if a Christian can’t beat you with logic, they will trump you with spirituality. If you present a point in a debate that can’t be refuted, you can expect to hear something like this. “Oh. Well, you just need to pray more.” “You just need to ask the Holy Spirit to show you.” “You really need to listen to the voice of God on this matter.” “You must not study your Bible well.”

Now it could be the other person needs to pray more and study their Bible better, but it doesn’t show that they are wrong. The way you show someone wrong is not by saying something about your character or their character (With some granted exceptions of course), but by actually looking at the argument. What data has been presented that is false or misunderstood or what steps in logic are being done wrong?

With atheists, it’s often what I have called atheistic presuppositionalism. An atheist is rational by virtue of being an atheist. They don’t believe in the silly myths that everyone else thinks. If they’re a rational person, their arguments must be rational and their conclusions must be as well. Is it a shock that so many atheists think that they’re brilliant researchers by being in the know on Jesus mythicism? (This is comparable to how Christians think they really know what is going on with the Illuminati and the New World Order and other such things.)

What both sides really need is some intellectual humility. It’s nigh impossible for them to just say that they could be wrong. It’s actually worse than that. It’s nigh impossible to admit that the other side could have a point. Many times, one wants to commit ritual suicide practically before granting that the other person may have a point.

The solution in both cases is the same. Humility. Stop and realize what the other person is really saying. Then go and look at their argument. If they have a flaw that you can see, point it out. If not, then maybe look at yours and see if you have a problem. If you’re unsure, just think about it. It’s okay to leave the conversation and come back later. Be willing to do the research and read both sides. The sad aspect is that both Christians and atheists doing this are both fostering an anti-intellectualism. (And let’s be clear, anti-intellectualism has absolutely no place in a Christian worldview)

I look forward to a day when research is done better on both sides. It’s probably a pipe dream, but maybe it will happen. If you are regularly debating and have never changed your mind on any case and had significant changes to your worldview, you’re not really doing research and study. You’re just setting yourself up as infallible.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Nick Peters

Nick Peters is a speaker and writer who has interviewed some of the most recognized names in Christian Apologetics for his Deeper Waters ministry.