Faith Alone…er… and Evidence!
September 3, 2011
The following is an excerpt from a little comment exchange I had earlier on the blog.
I am a Christian and an apologist, thought not professional. I was raised Roman Catholic and then became atheist (from 13-17). I phased through agnostic, deist, new age, and then Christian. For me it was the evidence and arguments that convinced me to believe. I didn’t want to.
Also, you stated that the only difference between skeptics and Christians is belief in the existence of God, almost as if to say that the only reason God would condemn you to an eternal hell is because of lack of evidence or unbelief. That is only partially true… which is really not true. The only reason that God condemns anyone, according to the Christian worldview (which you are arguing against specifically) is because of sin. This is not to say that Christians are not sinners, but that their sins have been atoned for. Repentance involves not just intellectual belief or acknowledgement that it is all true, though that is part of it, but it also involves surrendering to Jesus as Lord of your life, agreeing with Him that you are a sinner, and trusting His sacrifice for your salvation.
Here’s my response:
Thanks for your thoughts, C. I should clarify that by “evidence” I mean objectively verifiable points of data. I do not consider subjective feelings of revelation, personal conviction, or bronze age scribblings to constitute evidence for claims about heaven, hell, or god.
You’re right, I also should have specified that a skeptic in hell would also be justified in surrendering to jesus. Suppose a non-dead christian surrenders to jesus for fear of eternal damnation, i.e., to avoid eternal damnation. Assuming she meets whatever your criteria are for “surrendering to jesus”, is this sufficient for her to be saved? Suppose a skeptic goes to hell and then has the similar desire to avoid eternal damnation, and “surrenders to jesus” by whatever your criteria are. What’s the relevant moral difference?
Consider: you claim that your belief is due to evidence. So, your belief is not merely a matter of faith. You claim to have sufficient evidence for your standards, and given this evidence, you believe there is a hell and seek to avoid it. What is wrong with a skeptic having a higher standard of evidence, and upon having it met, surrendering to jesus? The requirement that this happen prior to death cannot be justified by appealing to some intrinsic value of faith, because you claim to have been swayed by evidence, not merely faith. If it is faith alone that saves, then whatever alleged evidence there may be is irrelevant, because that is not how to form a soul-saving belief (again, if faith alone saves.) So, if you think that there is something intrinsically valuable and soul-saving about surrendering to jesus due to faith alone, and your conversion was the result of convincing evidence, then I guess I’ll see you in hell?
About the Author: Seth KurtenbachSeth Kurtenbach is pursuing his PhD in computer science at the University of Missouri. His current research focuses on the application of formal logic to questions about knowledge and rationality. He has his Master's degree in philosophy from the University of Missouri, and is growing an epic beard in order to maintain his philosophical powers. You can email Seth at Seth.Kurtenbach@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter: @SJKur.
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