I’d like to offer a suggestion to Christians for their interactions with skeptics.
Next post, I’ll offer suggestions for skeptics and seekers of God.
To Christians: Make modest claims.
At two campuses in the midwest recently, I spoke with atheist students. I was reminded that any hint of exaggerated claims such as “overwhelming evidence” or “proof” or “irrefutable arguments” for the Christian faith are not helpful.
And probably not true.
What’s helpful is to tell others why I am a Christian. The answer to that question can be summarized in two statements:
1. I find arguments for the Christian faith to be convincing.
2. I experience the risen Christ in my life every day.
Notice the word convincing in #1. I believe it’s the right standard for an effective argument in conversation.
It acknowledges to my audience that what I find convincing, they may not.
For example, it appears to me that the perceived “beneficial order” found in the human body and nature is the work of an intelligent designer.
A skeptic looks at the same data and comes to a different conclusion.
It’s a judgment call. I find the data convincing, the skeptic does not.
Is that my fault?
Not at all.
And if the skeptic protests that I haven’t offered proof of anything, I simply agree. I haven’t. I’ve just offered an argument that is convincing to me and to a lot of thoughtful people.
God doesn’t provide proof. If he did, everyone would be forced to believe. That’s not his way.
At the end of one of my talks on campus recently, a skeptic asked, “What do you do with atheist arguments that are ‘convincing’?”
My reply: I don’t find them convincing. If I did, I’d be an atheist.
Furthermore, my encounter with the risen Christ every day of my life for the past 35 years is a powerful confirmation of all the argumentation. I find that extremely convincing.
See my Faith Is Like Skydiving for a complete book on having productive dialogue with those outside the faith.
just thinking with you: for the skeptic, a starting point could be: do you begin with the proposition that certainty does not exist, ergo, I am a skeptic because nothing can be known?…would give a lot to be somewhere in the room when these encounters occur…]wayne
Hi Wayne, It seems to me there are varieties of skeptics. Some are deep skeptics of almost everything — Hume would be an example. Perhaps he is close to what you are suggesting.
Others are skeptical only of religious claims, due to being committed to empirical methods.
Other skeptics accept the possibility of God and the supernatural but haven't made up their minds. They say, for the moment, “I don't know,” and could be called agnostic.
Regarding arguments that you find convincing, maybe you could do a somewhat longer post to address the following: top five (or seven or three, or whatever makes sense) arguments you find convincing on why God exists; and then you could do another post on the top five (or seven or three or whatever makes sense) arguments atheists find convincing for why God doesn't exit.
Just a thought and thanks for your efforts.