Saturday, 26 March 2011
"I find your lack of faith - disturbing. " - Darth Vader
Tim Keller's 2008 book seeks to answer some of the questions that have baffled thinkers, philosophers and seekers throughout the modern ages.
Why does God allow suffering in the world?
How could a loving God send people to hell?
Why isn't Christianity more inclusive?
How can one religion be 'right' and the others 'wrong'?
Why have so many wars been fought in the name of God?
Here's the first in a series of excerpts extracted from the book as I journey through it.
Introduction - A Second Look at Doubt
Believers should acknowledge and wrestle with doubts - not only their own but their friends' and neighbours'. It is no longer sufficient to hold beliefs just because you inherited them. Only if you struggle long and hard with objections to your faith will you be able to provide grounds for your beliefs to sceptics, including yourself, that are plausible rather than ridiculous or offensive. And, just as important for our current situation, such a process will lead you, even after you come to a position of strong faith, to respect and understand those who doubt.
1 Peter 3: 15 Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect
But even as believers should learn to look for reasons behind their faith, sceptics must learn to look for a type of faith hidden within their reasoning. All doubts, however sceptical and cynical they may seen, are really a set of alternate beliefs. You cannot doubt Belief A except from a position of faith in Belief B. For example, if you doubt Christianity because ' There can't be just one true religion', you must recognise that this statement is itself an act of faith. No one can prove it empirically, and it is not a universal truth that everyone accepts... Every doubt is based on a leap of faith.
Some people say, 'I don't believe in Christianity because I can't accept the existence of moral absolutes. Everyone should determine moral truth for him/herself.' Is that a statement they can prove to someone who doesn't share it? No, it is a leap of faith, a deep belief that individual rights operate not only in the political sphere but also in the moral. There is no empirical proof for such a position. So the doubt (of moral absolute) is a leap.
Some will respond to all this, “My doubts are not based on a leap of faith. I have no beliefs about God one way or another. I simply feel no need for God and I am not interested in thinking about it.” But hidden beneath this feeling is the very modern American belief that the existence of God is a matter of indifference unless it intersects with my emotional needs. The speaker is betting his or her life that no God exists who would hold you accountable for your beliefs and behaviour if you didn’t feel the need for him. That may be true or it may not be true, but, again, it is quite a leap of faith.
The only way to doubt Christianity rightly and fairly is to discern the alternate belief under each of your doubts and then to ask yourself what reasons you have for believing it. How do you know your belief is true? It would be inconsistent to require more justification for Christian belief than you do for your own, but that is frequently what happens. In fairness you must doubt your doubts. My thesis is that if you come to recognize the beliefs on which your doubts about Christianity are based, and if you seek as much proof for those beliefs as you seek from Christians for theirs—you will discover that your doubts are not as solid as they first appeared.